Looci was here

Formerly titled “Totally Keanu”

[Composite poem by four authors]

The cat ate flimsily
passin’ out on the highway
between the there and the not-there
(ching, ching, ding)
The sign told him so
“I’ma smoka cigarette”
said the pink cashmere cat
to the black smoke typewriter grill
(ringaling, ding)
The bike ate radiator juice
space island or spice island
either one
spoon fork copulation on a
polyurethane table top day
The tree crookilly had insects in its nest
I made pieces and then I made tops
“He wouldn’t even give the whore a hairpin.”
Purple woman with gypsy silver big ringathing (ding!)
Red trucks zip noisily into the unknown
I knew a guy named dong once
sung Michael Jackson sunset
Irish-Puerto Rican dream
Digesting birds and recovering fast
Half-n-half, whoops, I’m spilling Wow!
Money machines like rats
where Italian vendors once stood
The sky crumbles under the mountain
This is not how I thought I’d be spending
my Monday afternoon
Three torches, 32x on a box
and Doritos, cornflakes
Coca-Cola and BBQ tofu
burger burger burger meister man go
The instrument by making sound
muddles sound flow
No, the chime girl says
Takes her brown bag parcel of when
Walks out into the dwindles
of a new year’s night.

© Myk Loutzenhiser, Luciano Lenchantin, Chrissie Sarvella & Rick McKinney 1994

Long distance love on a thrift store couch

we hit a wall of words
and sit silent on the ragged
thrift store couch
distanced by miles
yet somehow still holding hands
the song lyrics on the radio sing
how did we get this far apart?

bored and irritated
I rise and round the corner
to the bleak room where
the computer sits humming

stars fly by on the screen
I sit and contemplate something
and hear her rise
and close the door behind her
as she goes downstairs to smoke
a form of meditation for her

they say distance makes the heart grow fonder
but I haven’t even left yet
and already we’re crumbling
and the words build up
in my head and
come to mind
at the strangest times:
you don’t want me
I’m poison

and I don’t want this
a year, probably two
long distance love
has never worked for me
but she won’t come with me
back to Bisbee
and I can’t stay

I drift into fiction
and she smokes all day
and together we come apart.

© Rick McKinney 1998


Bratwurst without the beer
that was last night
my kidneys talk
and spaghetti squash
What’s that thing?
asks Dany from Wales
Don’t you have squash in Wales?
We have a drink called squash
says Dany with a look that says
Of course you idiot
so I point to a zucchini
in the vegetable section
core-jzet, he says, courgette
We have different words for many things.

Dany is our
unexpected guest
he is a breath of fresh air
into my life here
a life without friends and
yet maybe I am soon to learn
that my need of male
has diminished
like a starved stomach
and that now
I need time alone
more than anything
that and to curl up with Jill
every night.

© Rick McKinney 1998

Gray Matter

Woeful magistrate of incipient dreams
My right eyelash twitches
irreverent of waning daylight you
Your contestable emotions impose
Others tease me, my
staunch hope for
[This doesn’t read well, doesn’t
touch you, you think,
that’s because I’m intellectualizing,
pulling at gray matter like a cat clawing a couch.]

My heart is on her front porch
where she confuses my corpse
with scavenger hunt clues.
Judge of my creative character
Jailer of my blackened heart.

© Rick McKinney 1995

Gator’s Kitten

The ferret is Gator
named after a baby alligator
that jumped in my lap
from a bayou embankment
and back into the swamps
of Jean LaFitte
New Orleans, 1994

The kitten is just

Gator and
Kitten dance in circles
on the living room floor
checkin’ each other out
Kitten hisses
boxes Gator on the nose
Gator sniffs her butt
paces around her
lies flat on the floor in front of her
Gator yawns and looks up at me
with a look that says, “So what?”
I write in my journal about
how great they’re gonna get along.

A few weeks later I leave Kitten
with my X’s little girl and
Gator with Marie
and go to Paris,
lose my head.

I don’t think
the two animals
ever saw
one another

© Rick McKinney 1994

Equality of the sexes

Quite oblivious
of the hypocritical nature
of her comment she said,
“And don’t take this the wrong way,
but boy was he well hung!”

wasn’t the first emotion
to enter my head.

It was logic
or rather a sort of grappling for context
a minute or two in which I struggled
to remember how exactly it went
when I would somehow
trample her sensitivities,
injure her frail

But, you know,
for the life of me
I cannot recall
having once stepped up to the plate
tensed for the swing and said,
“And don’t take this the wrong way,
but boy did she have big tits.”

For all my sins of insinuation and
moments of lustful thoughts toward others
Not once have I said such a thing aloud to her.
I have been very, very careful at this:
Our second attempt at forever.

My advice then to men
who think women
naive, innocent and frail:
take them at their word.

If a pale, thin
long-legged thing
tells you one day
that men should be put
in cages so that women can
watch their antics and laugh,
believe her and run.

And if a tiny doll
with turquoise eyes
stands on a soapbox and rants
then privately recants, saying,
“I’m the biggest hypocrite,”
 believe her.

young friend, young man!
Just because you’re the spawn
of a gender flawed
just because your granddaddy
was a prick
doesn’t mean
that you’re to blame
or that you should pay
for the mistakes of all men-kind.

Women are as tricky
slippery and sly as men
and as treacherous
If not as bungling.

Remember always what a tiny girl
told me about my instinct to protect:
“Nature makes us small like children,
but my brain is as big as yours.”

© Rick McKinney 2001

Brief Kodak Moment

For Crystal

(Written Mardi Gras season, 2002, gonzo style in ten minutes sitting on the ground in a parking lot while the Stock Family & friends packed the cars to leave the beach)

Moon full
and full of afternoon glow
in a light blue sky
Chris standing watch
ever the inspector
whilst young brother Jules
untangles fishing lines
and little Gabrielle fondles bright green
worms from the tackle box.

Claudia with her bright burgundy
boing-boing hair tied up over each ear
Crystal in the front seat ready to go
yelling “Honey! Honey!”
and Ilene speaking to Gabrielle in French
whilst the tall beautiful tanned guy carries
two ice-filled coolers back to the cars
and it’s the late light of Sunday
my first visit to the southern barrier islands
of Louisiana
and baby Devon’s first beach trip ever.

The gulls screech
and far off a chopper chops
and all these named houses high on stilts
trailer homes even, surrounded by marshlands
and the dolphins play
and I swim close and hear their breathing in the sea
the Gulf, Mexico far beyond across the water
and my lips smell of sun lotion and sea salt
and the gnats swarm, impossible
and the Stock brothers
sons of the beat man, the word man
Jules the lithe and muscular
cigarette ever-dangling from half-smile
like Andy Capp or James Dean
sunglasses black
baseball hat
and that mad crocodile troll throat
eking out words like wind through a skull.

Brother Chris so mellow
so impervious to the chaotic chorus
seemingly a constant around him
and Gabrielle sits down beside me
with her bag of baby carrots
and asks, “What are you writing?”

“Cajun crawfish boiled,” I say
reading a sign
and that blinding sun
paints the calm bayou waters
and the car’s smudged windshield
and my scratched glasses making
all of life zoom by flickering
like an old 8mm color reel
a real trip back in time
as we motor straight forward
across the flattest earth
smack into the sinking sun.

The Tobacco Plus Gas Station mini-mart
sign says “We now have daiquiris”
but inside the manager explains that yes
they have them but not yet the license to sell them
thirsty, we deflate and move on toward New Orleans
and the bars we know
but then a few miles up the road..

Frozen daiquiris all around now
and it’s Mardi Gras mambo
rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie blues
blaring through as we cruise the
homeward road singing Cajun praises
to Gabrielle’s green sun
and the Lord above
and whatever Mister dun
invented music
and sweet, sweet rum.

From “Boxed Wine & Pavement”
© Rick McKinney 2002


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
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


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
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
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

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
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
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