Category: Dog Bowls & Ashtrays

My second poetry collection, largely of work written in about life in Bisbee, Arizona.

Dog bowls and ash trays

The last time I stayed to eat
over at Bog’s
he grabbed a butt-loaded cup
he’d been using as an ashtray
and washed it out
to serve me coffee with
he’s a one-fork, one knife
one spoon kinda guy
but he likes the company
when occasionally I hang out awhile
and sit on the floor like tonight
in his house without furniture
and shoot the shit
our voices echoing around the place
mine wailing consternation
over women or the cops or whatever
his cackling pirate-like, a laugh
and the shuffle of his feet and tires
as he maneuvers in his wheelchair
with bum legs and hands full of dinner
which tonight comes to me in his dog’s food bowl
for lack of any other dinnerware
“Dog bowls and ashtrays!” I thunder in my Tom Waits voice
”Everything’s comin’ up dog bowls and ashtrays
and sweet Lorelei wants a ride
and it won’t cost you nuthin’
just hear the siren call and
she’ll take you straight into the rocks.”
Bog doesn’t know about Lorelei.
You’re German and you don’t know about Lorelei? I ask
and he says oh yeah, the chick on the Rhein
and I say bingo!

So I turned a pretty woman down
and when she asked me
why she’d never seen me
arm-n-arm with a woman around town
I answered that women
never give me their phone numbers
until they need something from me
like a ride
like tonight’s note
delicately written in the “dearest” terms
on the back of a Hershey’s wrapper
and left on my driver’s seat.
In all fairness
I will readily admit that
I too have an ulterior motive:
I want to be alone both in my car on the way
and in my luxury hotel room in Phoenix
and besides that, sweet Lorelei,
you don’t know it
but we’ve dated before
your name was different
but your siren-song
it gives me shivers
so familiar
so frighteningly familiar..

So it’s dog bowls
and ashtrays for now
hardly very glamorous
hardly me at all
but the company is good
and things can only get better.

© Rick McKinney 1999

Something you rarely get from women

I’m not using my body right now
so you can play with it if you want to.

i love that.
a line from a song on some crazy mix tape James made
i can just picture the woman speaking
and wish every woman I crave was that kind
and I’m sitting here half in bed at 10 a.m.
been mostly awake since 7
freezing my ass off
in this uninsulated shack
awaiting the warmth of the rising sun
and thinking.
god damn lid-less eyes of the mind
impossible to close
so I’m belly-aching over this invitation
for dinner tonight from this aging closet-case
one Dulton from Del Mar
an emissary from my late teen years
of turning-on every rich queen in soCal
with my accidentally homoerotic lithe Greek body
and my open-minded acceptance of the gay community
or perhaps more succinctly put:
my need of praise
of knowing that I was desirable
something you rarely get from women
until you’ve already laid them
so subtle and guarded are they
so the gay men gave me something I craved
but I never wanted the rest
not even from that Midas-touch geezer
from Rancho Santa Fe with his invitations
to tour the Greek Isles for a damn year
on his damn Titanic yacht
with 40 servants or something
and now Dulton
a voice inside me
(probably from my stomach!)
says “Nice, expensive dinner!
full course meal!”
as I stare woefully at a tin of oatmeal
and three cans of some horrid soup I’ve
been avoiding for weeks
but the other voice is a little clearer
not so subjective as that
an-empty-stomach voice
this other voice is saying:
“Warning! Dull queen!
First boring, then groping.”
and then there’s the plain fact
that the other day I damn near exploded
to Amanda venting outrage and indignation
after sitting through two hours of his bullshit
about this book he wants to write
(has been writing in his head for years)
and how he has an agent, an editor, a publisher
a god damn fluffer for all I know
and all he doesn’t have is THE BOOK.
what an ass
to sit there and tell me all that
knowing well-enough who I am
what I do
and what I lack:
an agent, an editor, a publisher
i hate him
and that about does it
made up my mind
not going
thank you for listening
gee, and you didn’t even get dinner out of it.

© Rick McKinney 1999


like remembering
isn’t always easy
takes discipline
a thing
I possess in odd
and unpredictable
like love
more for one
than for another
and then
lost without it

© Rick McKinney 1999


When you don’t know what you want
you sit awkward on a lot of the wrong couches
sipping drinks with lonely strangers
lonely like you, yes
but unlike you
they know they want you
but you don’t what you want

not very poetic, huh?
and so the telling of a non-story should be
trite and devoid of passion
like so many words spoken
to fill the space where she used to be
the one you left
the one with whom conversation
was never an issue
with whom nothing but the
mostly mute crash of fleshy vessels
could ever matter

like the sense of
blowing it on a couch
in the desert
with a sexy woman
the whole sad episode
doomed by an invisible wall
between you
like that fucking latex dam
the HIV counselor preached about
and that you swore you’d never use

when you don’t know what you want
nothing and no one can penetrate

you are an island


© Rick McKinney 1999

29 Palms

It’s Genny and I in
mid-July in the desert
Al’s Swinger Bar,
29 Palms

It’s Bud out of the can
and black nudes in velvet
on the walls
The sign above the bar reads:
“Official NAACP Membership Station”

There’s a man with big ears
at the bar laughing
a high chirpy howl
and the clock above the bar
is struggling
its second hand slipping
stumbling slowly up to the 12
then plummeting down
in relative bartime

Genny sits slumped low
in the blue-tattered booth seat
beside me to my right.
She is the eastern frontier of my
barroom world
the table the north
the white stone wall and
scratchy window sunshine
my western one.

Out there
I see tattoo parlors
The Oasis Bar & Grill
the orange ball of the 76
spinning golden
an hour before sunset

It’s a scratchy Plexiglas view
of America

a desolate yet hometown
friendly desert town
and the American flag stands erect
in an eastward wind

Genny wants to eat.
Drink!  I say
Prolong the magic of our escape
from the familiar, forested black
top hat inward spiraling
safe world of Idyllwild.

In three days I plan to bid adieu
and good riddance to that place,
to this place, to every place I know,
to trade the old for the new.

But Genny is a dream come true
a rugged, dark skinned beauty
and a voyager
and I have to wonder
what it is I’m thinking
in thinking
of leaving her

and in answer
to no question I’ve asked
she says
“I’ll always say yes.”

© 1996 Rick McKinney

Bring it on

I feel old and silly
I feel frail and uneasy
here next to young John
in light of tonight’s open mike
and as I say that
it occurs to me that I have always
felt this way
in waves
in unpredictable waves
of headaches and fear
meaning as long as I can
since high school anyway
and those years when Scott and
I shared a dive apartment
in Carlos Malo
he partying, me cringing
suffering migraine after migraine
and complicating it with Coors, Burgie Beer
a diet of ninety-nine cent pizzas
and then when meth hit town
snorting up, high for awhile
then feeling like death
no health insurance and
my head splitting wide
my parents too occupied with their own
miseries and dogma to help me find me a cure
get a job, get a life, get insurance
you’re a man now
well, I never found a cure
but fought my parents well enough
I refused to be a man
and remained to all appearances a pretty poet boy
inside: a broken thing with a cock-eyed skull
that bit back in regular intervals
screaming at me to be healthy
but who’s healthy
at 20?

So now it’s Bisbee
a thousand thousand years hence
with nothing changed
just me aged
aged but alive
a notch above the dead ones, I guess
like Cobain with his stomach pains
and Michael Hutchins, the pain of fame
shit, half the cast of SNL

yeah, so I’m not perfect
in debt up to my pierced nipples
lost in America
self-exiled from half the fucking west
probably wanted in California
and thoroughly unwanted where it counts most
where it has always counted most for me
on the printed page
but still alive
and still getting it down
like a man bedazzled
like a kid who dreams in color
of a journey to the center of the world.

would that I could train you
take you by the hand and show you
but you are impervious and rightly so
there is no right way
only your way
as it has always been only my way
and some baby boomer house wife
cackles from afar and wants answers
but I will burn brightly baby
when your ass is long forgotten.

All hail the frailty.
All hail the crooked path that broke me
and tossed me out anew
still writhing in the pains of birth
for I am ever reborn.

Bring it on.
Bring it on in spades.

© Rick McKinney 1999