Category: “Remember Watermelon”

My first solo poetry chapbook hand-published and distributed from my art car Duke in the late 1990s.

Clan

Thoughts of New England
of the Lakes Region in New Hampshire
thoughts of family
and I am thankful that I will
be reunited with the McKinney clan
in just a matter of weeks
two weeks from tomorrow in fact
I will see my father and
then my aunt Mary and uncle Bob
Grandpa & Grandma McKinney
and a whole battalion of cousins
and their children
just the mention of their names makes me
nostalgic and warm at heart
I feel my blood responding to its kind
to those people in the world
who look like me
in subtle ways
and probably
entirely unconsciously
act like me as well
I feel safety in the speaking
of their names
history
as though for a moment
I am a member of a great clan
or a “nation” of a size more
conceivable to my singular mind
more comprehensible than “America”
smaller, as in Hopi or Kalapuya, Sioux
Inuit, Cherokee as though for a moment
I am a bronze-skinned native
of the Winnisquam tribe
instead of a lost white mongrel
in a land of too many dogs
for there are too many of us dogs
far too many
and this dog has been too far away
from his blood for too long
sometimes lately
he hardly remembers who he is and why.

© Rick McKinney 1998

Civil

I’m gonna tell you how pissed off I am
Cauz your somebody, and you’re out there
beyond the page
where I don’t have to
see
your
eyes
your impatience, your indifference
your incomprehensible jealousy
which stings me
like nothing else
when it is called to my attention
like nothing else
I wanna be your friend.

Somewhere along the road
from a youth full of tears and
fists thrown through a spray of spittle
I got civil
or something
got all jacked-up on etiquette and restraint.

Somehow I missed out on that
wise-cracking
wasp-stinging
tell-it-like-it-is
no bullshit
Boston Irish spirit
and that lightning-quick response time of my New England peers.

Now when people give me shit
I take it
like a buddha or something
well I ain’t no buddha!

So today I maxxed out.
This guy pushed my “unfulfilled writer” button
(which these days is bigger than Shamu)
and I ate it
until I
got home.

Then I pulled out that Louisville Slugger from the closet,
tore the mattress off my bed and stood it up out back.

I beat the shit out of that mattress.

I hit it with anger and I hit is with sorrow
I hit is with everything I had until
the strength left me and I could only thump it lightly as I cried,
sobbing for the manic awkwardness of artists
my eyes so full of tears I could not see.

I wept out of loneliness and frustration
out of untold rage at my publisher, those pirates!
and at myself for believing them, for my patience and congeniality
my cowardice.

I wept for my love of this mountain
and for my intense desire to flee from
her cloistering and incestuous embrace.
I struck at the mattress with renewed vigor
picturing the faces that eye me so, as though they know me.
They don’t know me.

I hammered that mattress until I felt I was done.
A warm sense of respite and renewal came over me,
a kind of euphoria.
I had beat the pirates
who sit upon my words and stifle them with time.
I had beat the face of indifference, and
I had beat the face of jealousy and petty judgement.
I was done
cleansed for the moment from these lowly shits.

And for the time being
not caring if I was ever understood
or if my words went forever unread,
I chucked the day’s agenda and sat down
to a Jarmusch film
and dreamt about the Deep South
where everything is a lime-Jello green
where the music and the food are a seduction
and the people don’t know my name.

© Rick McKinney March 1996

Cape Codder

Dadadump!
Dadadump!
A stroll across the campus
after some two hours
of drinking
Cape Codders
(no one out west knows
what the fuck that is..)
vodka and cranberries
I think I had five
in the familiar atmosphere
of some college bar
familiar to everyone there
but me
near empty at first
then filling steadily toward
happy hour at ten p.m.
everybody hugging
some big family and
me the scaring
overfriendly guest you
brought to dinner
weird and
not a little bit lonely
anecdotal of my every day
here in Oh-ree-gone
then in walks some nerdy
scientist-type with a bicycle helmet
and I wave him over
as he wearily surveys the
blatant lack of tables in the place
and so I meet Michael Ek
an all right guy
a meteorologist and
oceanographer with three kids
and a wife
I like him
he’s saved my night
we talk about everything
and nothing
a little of my world
a little of his
and we are both
undeniably interested
in the weirdness of each others
idiom
my writing
his math
go figure
and then it’s time
for Michael to go
and I’m left with my nachos
and a refill on the pink
and potent drink
I’m a nut for cranberry juice
ever since that dream I had
of cranberry groves and
sugar sand dunes on the Atlantic Coast
the cranberry for me
has become some sort of jewel
the fruit of my New England youth
the east coast blood in my poetic veins
at any rate

I suck down the drink
and pay my $12
with a paltry one dollar tip
and skip out
on the townies who have
no interest in me
and the blonde waitress
Michelle Pfeiffer
smoking like a chimney
and acting cool as she steals
the last available chair from my
near-vacant table
fuck you, I think
and I drink
and I depart
and I walk across the campus
of O.. S.. U..
and I giggle like the drunk
that I am
and I marvel at the moon
and inhale the dark and the flowers
and suck up the atmosphere
of a bunch of old buildings
towers of higher learning
and then Sean Young
in glasses on a bicycle
nearly runs me down
and again I giggle
as we dodge one another
in the night
I feel weird
like a rapist dying
to be raped on this dark
campus at night
self-conscious male
with emergency call stations
with little blue lights
positioned every hundred yards or so
I walk on
I have no backpack
I am not one of them
I giggle and stumble
I am drunk because
I want to be
one
of them
or be someone who somebody
calls a friend
here in this lonesome downer
town in Oregon
that everyone calls good
I hate it
because it has made
no effort to embrace me
even after I have written
about it in such glowing terms
sure, for money, but still..
I write from my soul
no matter what I tell you
no matter how much I boast
of my ability for bullshit
I walk on
I am afraid of cars
I think of famous people I have met
I want to be with them right now
I want to relate to their sense of isolation
of having everything
and nothing
because no one
in the crowd of thousands
has stepped forth to be
your friend.
I reach our apartment
I nod appreciatively at my car
my inanimate friend
and I pee on the building
in which I live
and watch the neighbor girl
ascend her stairs
in a pale blue dress.

© Rick McKinney 1998

California Crushed

The thunder never leaves us long here.
The sky is fragile as a thousand eggs in flight.
This is night without end
a heartbeat trembling
beer-addled thought
inconsolable girls astride wooden monkeys
junkies in Spring
sprawled thin beneath the needle
spittle-sprayed displays
of hate
jealousy.
Freedom unleashed
on the crushed-faced foreigner
a tableau of wants unsatisfied
forested sex and
porn film excuses
far away wives with adorable accents
old girlfriends returned to the screen
My life is a scream!
Sometimes in laughter and
sometimes in pain.
I scream for the words that have died unspoken
unwritten, unlived.

© Rick McKinney 1996

Boxcars

The train horn grows louder
as the Willamette & Pacific approaches
I look forward to the graffiti
which is always different
depending on the cars

The orange and black
engines enter my
field of vision
between horizontal blinds
through the cross hairs of
an old rotting oak
that cracks and drops
heavy
rain-soaked limbs
in the night

The boxcars shuffle by
appear and disappear behind
bland, nondescript
apartment buildings
like the slow hunger
growing in my belly
to be elsewhere –Arizona?
or wherever that train
is going.

© Rick McKinney 1997

blank screen

What do you say
to a white screen
blinding your eyes
by degree
at midnight
in a caged city
a Petri dish suburban
sampling of life
wherein nothing
genuine will ever occur
what do you say
when there’s no one
to talk to but her
no impartial ear
no friend to listen
no where to run.

What can I say
to this blankness
before me
this full glass
this clean slate.

I can tell it anything
I can point anywhere on the map
and go.

I can write anything here
anything.

Now that’s freedom.
Scary.

© Rick McKinney 1997

Asses

Asses.
Everywhere asses.
Behinds before me
bare backsides in black & white
plump white and divine
and Tom Waits sings
“Just then Florence Nightingale
she dropped her drawers and
stuck her fat ass half way out of the window
to a Wilson Pickett tune..”
White chocolate moon in night, double scoop
I’ve got a bone in my belly
for every ass I see
This one came in the mail
a sepia-toned postcard backside
shadowed crack
The alluring cleft of an inverted Valentine’s heart
skin heart
albino cello torso
Now another: wrapped in black, a perfume ad
The New Yorker, February 26, Woman’s Issue
Suzanne tells a joke:
“How do you make two pounds of fat attractive?
Put a nipple on it.”
She laughs.
and I say
secret it away
in blue jeans unbuttoned
and dropped to the floor.
Stretch it in birth
paint it in waves
white lace
the prismatic pattern sunlight
of shallow Caribbean seas.
Kiss it now
on both cheeks
cool to warm lips.
Now that is an ass to remember.

From “Remember Watermelon”
© Rick McKinney 1994

23 percent sunshine

Nobody ever calls anymore.
When I realize that it’s
Friday night and
pick up the phone to call
someone.. anyone
for something to do
there are precious few to call.
We give up and head to the bar
a tiny roadside joint
down the road from
Danny’s parent’s house
and there we find his Dad
jolly in his crusty way
cursing the woman bartender
but happy to see us.
He’s going to Bisbee, he says
to see his son
but also just to get away
“If I had come here when I was your age,” he says
I wouldn’t have lasted two months.”
“I hate this fuckin’ place.”
I tell him I’m envious
“Think about it,” he says
“Arizona has 81 per cent sunshine,
Oregon has 23 per cent.
You figure it out!”
Tammy likes the bar
I knew she would
It’s small and everybody’s familiar
She smokes and wants another beer
but I’m starved
so we head out and eat a bag of dry
dead fried chicken from Safeway
and wait for Mary to get home
from her 2nd shift job at HP
so we can watch a rental movie
at her place and Tammy can
carry on her campaign
to get totally blotto on
Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout
on a Friday night in January
in Corvallis.

From “Remember Watermelon”
© Rick McKinney 1998