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poetry by E.M. Schorb

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AMERICAN MOBILE

by E.M. Schorb

 

The pure products of America go crazy . . .
—William Carlos Williams

Miss Smith, she dead.

. . . my blind left eye don’t stop me
I swivel quick around then get ahead
back at the panorama
striped down and then back up the hill
to any future peak greened brown black cut through
white striped like up the leg on a uniform
the wind don’t wall me
my aerodynamics
they’d lift my license for my eye full of sugar
but I still drink
that VA doctor’s lower’n fish shit
no beer no way
but I drink Lite test my blood take my insulin
I eat right mostly but my Drake’s cakes
I’m thirty-three feet back
sixty-six long times to here
always dreamed of motorhoming
free to be you and me
Maxine’s you
she sips at that beer
stares through the wraparound
like she’s watching home movies
and shoots bytes at me like look there
did you see that
she’s frightened at being sixty next week
I told her look at me—you plus six
and I’m still steering
still truckin’ but I never was a trucker
was a kid a soldier a vet a cop and
a guard at Disney’s that was my whole damned life
that back there behind me on the road
but it comes along with me in my sugar-eye
my shotup shoulder from War Two
my skin cancer from standing all those years in the sun
reflecting off tarmac and parked cars at Disney World

Max says look Jersey plates
she says Joisey we started out in Jersey
we fell in love haven’t slept together in years
Max thinks I’m not well interested
but it’s the sugar
I don’t tell nobody not even her not especially her
suppose she knew I couldn’t
what kind of man would she think
look she says back in back her mother sees it too
I don’t know what it is must be on my blind side
but I don’t say no way I let them know
I’m blind as a blackboard over there
not hurtling along at eighty
they’d piss their beer
you got to hold to your lane
the old lady’s nearly ninety but full of it
not only beer either if you know
look Max says
shut up Max but I don’t say it
I don’t listen about Alabama moons
Georgia peaches glorious Asheville leaves
I talk to myself my only friend
they suck me in like black holes
the old lady and Max everything goes
into them nothing out toward me
did I believe in love
I’ve stopped laughing even
I’ve been driving too long

I see us off the edge of a cliff if I don’t keep him awake
old man hunched up at the wheel was he my hero
I think there’s something wrong with his eyes now
the way he jerks around to see I’ve noticed
I ride not swiveled in a bucket by a tilted instrument pod
but sometimes behind him astraddle his first Harley
his long blond hair snapping in my eyes no helmets
my fingers feeling in the deep holes
through his shoulder and his ribs
where the sniper’s bullet drilled through
he died he said and came alive again on a table in England
I still wore his white dress shirt
hanging out over my rolled-up blue jeans
shiny pennies in my loafers
Frank Sinatra made me scream Elvis my one daughter
Buddy’s blonde princess the Dead my grandson
nobody sings anymore all back there somewhere
with my mother boozed up at ninety
a Depression-made cheapskate
sipping cheap port
and a hundred thousand in the bank
how did we get here

where are we going why must I come
Harry could save me
clever with life how left-handed he
mangled his right hand in the leather machine
made them think he was right-handed
more compensation
at last a little house and money in the bank
and I got us out of Jersey
like war in the project then
the Sixties the long hot summers
bullets through the windows
down to Max and Buddy in Orlando to my little house
Harry why must I travel with them
the youngsters even are old but Harry’s gone
crazy at the end
fighting in the trenches again
Argonne Belleau Wood
gone on the road behind us
dead and buried in Orlando
buried and lost his grave lost
we are going to sue
I have no place to put flowers
no place to talk to him anymore
they lost my Harry
tough leather guy from Brooklyn
tough guy so sweet once
poor old crazy man
gone back to the trenches back to Pershing
mustardgas and Belleau Wood
another world so far away
to his grave at ninety-five
I don’t want cable
only my one soap-opera station
only my wine
don’t even want life to come back
what is the wind
Star stories say some of us are aliens
supermarket tabloids Maxine calls them
and tries to make me think they print lies
sometimes I think Buddy and maybe even Maxine too
I bore her but maybe pod people have taken over her body
like that old movie
maybe she isn’t Maxine at all she doesn’t act like Maxine
I could have a baby too
like the hundred year old woman in Australia
it would kill me at ninety they must eat something
yogurt like those Russians who live forever aliens too
and the little girl no older than smaller than
who had quadruplets by a tom cat
all of them born with whiskers
the pictures were right there I saw them
whiskers and pointed ears and long tails I saw them
what is that going by where are they taking me

“Good Housekeeping” said
the kitchen was the warm womb
of the colonial home and early-American women
would stand at the hearth watching the turkey turn
as they pumped up the flames
packing sandwiches for an airline ain’t exactly
the big time but we made it
Buddy and I paid off the American dream
for his bedroom and my bedroom
and the alligators down on the lawn
to the rock seawall wanting sun
what’s life
put the rocks back put
back build up fall put back
two slices Wonder Bread
one slice waterpumped ham mayo mustard
my long thin fingers all little silver scars
I’m nobody what did I deserve
not Buddy and my mother anyway
sixty ain’t the end yet
not even with all my loose belly skin and
stupid strokefoot dragging when I’m tired
like Buddy on Omaha Beach
but I got it right through the head
like being brain-shot and nine weeks in the hospital
stealing our money
there she is sipping her wine at ninety
defying nature and three out of five of us kids with strokes
always demanding maybe she gave us the strokes
but nobody’s dead yet they say we are all lucky
so that’s what luck is not being dead
a case could be made

driving into the dusk is like driving into a dream
better hit the lights
that big cluster of stars down there
I aim my good eye on ahead
now in the dusk it gets tricky
but I don’t let Max know
extreme macular degeneration
sugar-induced doc says
then he says you got varicose veins in your eye
laser beams he says burn ’em out
so I see blue for a week from the dye
and the blue fades to gray and that’s it
my credit’s good
social security veteran’s pension Disney retirement
I’m a triple dipper
plus equity in the house poor boy makes good
I’m driving fifty thousand dollars across America
like I started out with anything but
a piano-teaching widowed mother
like I had a chance in life
I play my own tapes me at the organ
singing Willy Nelson songs
“On the Road Again” Max hates my music
she’s jealous but says I could of made a living
at it could of but couldn’t take the joints
composed some myself guitar piano organ
my tape plays “King of the Road”
my plates say NO MORTGAGE NO BOSS
NO JOB NO WORRIES I’M RETIRED
twenty years standing in the sun eating Twinkies skin cancer
Harry thought Max could do better
he never had a home like ours right on the gators’ water
he’d say he never had alligators on his lawn either
only stinkbugs in his old palm tree
sometimes I miss fighting with him
him on the Kaiser me on Hitler
who was worse all ancient history
even the Commies are dead
nothing left for Freedom to fight
and the world moves moves into the next century
away from us what we did and needed
it’ll all be computers and new people
no more like us we’re dinosaurs
old people but we move
and we take our houses with us like hermit crabs
we circle Asheville in leaves we land at Normandy
not ten minutes in and all my bones break
until I wake up on the table in England
purple heart silver star
I remember the sea swashing puffs of smoke
our flag it still stands yesterday’s news who cares
Max is sarcastic once she was proud
I can’t help it Max
it’s the sugar sugar

. . . who betrayed me so many times with his Harley
with somebody else’s legs around him
fingers in his wounds
hot stuff and joins the police
to wear his beautiful blue uniform
and ride his police cycle with his blond hair
fluffed all around his blue visored hat
and me pregnant alone with his blonde love in my stomach
stud making a fool of his wife making a fool of his life
with nogood burgling cops only Orlando left for us
thank the chief who saved us and that was when I began
when I began I began began to be old

Maxine looks like me at sixty
you could compare her to a picture of me then
O Harry do you remember
where are we
North Carolina
why are we here climbing this mountain
full of beautiful leaves
is that heaven up there what is that up there
a jetstream
a flying saucer
why don’t we just stay home
where I know where things are
they don’t think about me how I can’t see
how I wish Harry were here
how he was when he was young
so neat courtly so kind and sweet
not like at the end afraid of the Hun
hiding under the table gone crazy old man
with old-timers disease
it was all there again for him
no time had happened
no me no all that life all wiped out
and he was there again and it made me wonder
if we aren’t all just here or there or where are we

Asheville we pack it in at Nashville
Max and the old lady won’t go to the Grand Ole Opry
so I’ll leave them to themselves
I’ll go like I always said I would
could hear it in Jersey when I was a kid
could hear it all over the country
Hank Williams Minnie Pearl Tex Ritter Hillbilly Heaven
a southern yankee I never get enough of that wonderful stuff
Max says we should of gone the other route
to Memphis first Graceland Elvis can wait I say
but it turns out to be Hank Williams Junior and Rockabilly
not like I dreamed of it glitz and bang
even a vet can yearn for the old sweetstuff
Junior’s daddy the original Hank the real thing
the lyrics were in a language I could understand
we fought the wars and longed for love
they march for peace and seem to hate
like I’m still waiting for the fat lady to sing
President Truman even introduced Kate
Smith to the Queen
as “America” Oh beautiful for spacious skies
but the Opry’s like the rest of it now
maybe we should try Dollyland at Pigeon Forge
no Max wouldn’t like it because

angels come to our door but Buddy won’t let them in
do you know these are the last days
not if you have something spiritual
it’s on Earth
he was sent by the God of Love
that’s why Graceland is a church
even if it’s like they say
that his body ate twenty Big Macs a day
his soul had to live on Earth didn’t it had to eat
so Buddy’s blonde daughter tells me
my daughter too but more his blonde like him
now nearly bald not her him not dark like me
well gray but if Elvis could bring happiness
then he is a god

he’s one of those aliens Max
he was sent here to sing and bring love
they say Graceland is more beautiful than Heaven
that it’s all blue like the sky with no clouds
no thunderbooms and tin-roof rain clatter
where are we

like when Buddy grinds his choppers
he is eating us up in his sleep
our night war like our day war cannibal
shoved our beds apart into separate rooms
trumpets saxophones trombones
Buddy names my snoring while he grinds on
and her crazy on the convertible back there
all night coughs and chatters in her sleep
about chicken wing prices
it’s like a gone-nuts orchestra
OOMPA OOMPA OOMPA CLICKETY-CLICK BLAH BLAH
his teeth telling how much he hates his life
at different times broken uppers and lowers
life that never did what he wanted it to do
we rocked that motorpark in Nashville
hooked up Winnebago nearly laughed itself free
electric lines tore out as it rolled over on its side
and later shaking with screaming
Mama and I had sucked the city of any last drop
of Southern Comfort
Buddy never came back from the Opry till it was dying out
drunk himself from shit-kicking with urban cowboys
I told him his sugar’ll kill him he sleeps grinding his life
like steak into hamburger I’m his life
what’s life
Mama refuses to die until we do
gray and stroked and sugared and beer’d under
but how could we leave her at home who’d watch her
nobody’ll take her in if we go she has to go
won’t go to nursing home no way you know no how
and I don’t mean not to go go go before I die
thank GOD for Winnebagos
next stopover next postcard
P.S. life’s a war and you can’t give up
love Max at sixty

heaven is a place like Graceland
they say Elvis’s daughter owns it now
she’s the spitting image spitting image
listen Max at least the foreigners don’t own Graceland
like they do everything else
it ain’t true that we don’t work as hard as the Japs
but the unions Max I never did trust the unions

you think like a scab-cop
my father was a union man Buddy

her father was a union man
Harry was always a good union man
and a good Democrat

if they’re good for anything the aliens’ll be UNION
if I didn’t belong to a union
do you think they’d of paid me so much
for making lousy sandwiches
did you get enough sleep
we should of gone to Graceland first
read a “Reader’s Digest” article once
first it was the farmlife held us to place
then industry mills and trading and
later the big factories up north
made cities centers now no more
anyone anywhere now the computers
no more fixed life no more unions no more
democrats no more stay put go go go
like the damned beatniks hippies used to do
on the road in the sky
a whole corporation inside your portable
computer workforce anywhere
regions don’t mean nothing cities countries
my country ’tis of thee
I’m caught between the old lady back there
and my grandson
he’ll be part of it the brave new world he said
college boy and his kids won’t even know
what we were
can’t you just see it grandpa
no boundaries no borders
even space the moon Mars
business everywhere signals flying through the air
caught between times becoming part of it
losing it at the same time
with my sugar walking down the street
I never noticed how sweet beer is
injections they’ll be able to fix that too grandpa
and the whole world and even space
will become AMERICA

you look at your mother and you think
how could I have come out of that sixty years ago
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Max
it’s a chorus of whiskey-cracked voices
a duo of dead and gone ghosts
calling back over their shoulders
it’s bye-bye Maxine you’re as good as dead
with your mastectomied pumped-up plastic tits
what’d you need them for for him
could of caused the stroke I’m told
but then why my brother and sister stroked out too
my face I had burned with acid and scraped
for him forty years ago
acne pits from her tea and cheap day-old cake
to stuff us just before supper all of us
faces like burned-red moons
from her brother-can-you-spare-a-dime
cheap Depression soul
the old man back from Belleau Wood
mustard gas and the formaldehyde stink of the tannery
the whole goddamned century’s been a war
I could live to see the end of it
no more goddamned Twentieth Century
now we fight each other we can’t stop fighting
we’re like three hairy-assed Marines
landing on each other’s beaches
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Maxine
Christ he kissed me breath like death blow out my candle
if I could I’d blow them out of the Winnebago
and get my wish a little time on earth alone a little life before I die

Max was always tough even as a little girl
she always fought
her father’d have to drag her off
from a fight but he was proud
my Max don’t take no shit he said

we had to be tough Jersey we all glow in the dark
better than hard cold and cheap
we had nothin’ but trouble like the plague
Nineteen-Nineteen she says
the doughboys brought the influenza back from Europe
all those displaced persons
my best girlfriend died of it everybody
was dying you’re too young to know
good to be too young for some things
why do you think God does it
screw that
God helps them who help themselves Buddy
he likes that one damned Republican
but he’s right it’s like Elvis
a success a blond guy with black hair and a cape
God loves us all Max He’s sending them to help us
well He’s got a damned funny way of showing it
your granddaughter says He sent Elvis
or is it Elvis sent her
I told her he came in on a saucer
they’ll all be here soon

Buddy singing playing the organ he installed
coming in on a wing and a prayer
his feet pumping he loves to show off
he says Harry was just a leather worker
says my mother taught piano class will tell
your people don’t have no class no way
then it’s a Donnybrook
in the musical world

in heaven this couldn’t of happened
if Max would spell me
I’d go back and get drunk with the old lady
sit in my Seat w/Telescoping Pedestal
and stare at her until I could see inside her BRAIN
but Max won’t spell me won’t drive no way no how
just sucks in sixpacks and farts at speed bumps
I’m mustard gassed like Harry at Belleau Wood
turn on the BTU’s she says watch out
open the vents here comes Max
but she admits it was damned embarrassing
we got the Arizona state troopers all over us
here’s the old lady telling the pump jockey
at our time of life we want full service telling him
I’M BEING KIDNAPPED BY ALIENS
I have a lovely home in Orlando
they’re forcing me to go with them
they want my money a hundred thousand dollars
it belongs to Harry he earned it with the wrong hand
call the police help help
it takes some explaining but I tell them me I’m an ex-cop
look I say but they got me and Max over a car hood
if I had one of those BIG FOOT trucks
I’d drive right over top of this traffic jam
crushing cars like an angry giant
that’s why everybody loves Big Foot
I look at the cops and twirl
my finger in a circle at my temple
nuts the both of them I say
they feel sorry for me and because I’m an ex-cop

get real Buddy do you think God’s in California
or in the Painted Desert or the Petrified Forest
I want to see the first Disney place is all
Max is mad like Mel great roadman
people say it’s the end of America
from the coast there on it’s out forever
and the sea climbs into the sky
Buddy it’s your music
sometimes you sound like some godawful poet
song of the open road Max
there’s good trucker songs Max
trucker poets cowboy poets
you’re ignorant Max
don’t start Buddy don’t start
I tell you what Buddy
Vegas is God
you get a bucketful of change and pull handles
until something good happens
gangsters built Vegas Max
gangsters built everything Buddy
Bugsy Siegel is God and Vegas is heaven
for shame Maxine
what do you know Mama
it’s all a chance and to hell with your aliens
can’t you see saucers Maxine
clouds Mama we’re in the mountains
Sierra Nevadas Mama
I’m not your mother I’m hers maybe
and the white bombs of love
like the Star says it’s Elvis in his saucer
lots of Elvises because this is the end of time
they have big dark eyes and sideburns down to here
real smooth cheeks and they wear wonderful jumpsuits
with colors like Las Vegas that night
the first or second so it was stacks of colors
and everything blinking they wear clothes like that
with glittery things hanging down from their sleeves
I was a little girl when Dreamland burned down
my mother your grandmother Maxine
said you could see Dreamland burning from Jersey
I had been to Coney Island I had been to Dreamland
I’m sure I saw Vesuvius erupt and a great naval battle
where New York was bombarded by foreign ships
and then an American admiral went out
and defeated all of them
you see children it is all a dream
and you keep waking up to something new
we aren’t really here at all we are here
and somewhere else at the same time in Dreamland
Meet me tonight in Dreamland under the silvery moon
my mother used to play that one Mama
I am not your mother don’t call me Mama
you’re alone in the world Harry never liked you
motorcycle-head he called you
Maxine’s got me if she is Maxine
of course I’m Maxine
Christ of course white bombs
SNOW
where are we Maxine
if I smashed this pedal down down hill
I saw a movie once about a wagon train full of people
heading west on Donner tha’s it the Donner party
they were going over these very mountains they were up here
high like this and there was a blizzard and they got caught
and they couldn’t get down out of it
blizzard starved and they began to eat each other
don’t look at me Buddy
the saucers will save us
they’ll snatch us up into Graceland
they can do anything they can make us fly
can they take us back to where they came from
is it a musical place
of course it’s a musical place
Elvis is King
yeah Graceland is the real true blue heaven
beyond the cheap chicken wings of the world Mama
beyond the world Maxine
or whoever you are
Buddy my ears just popped
we’re climbing Max
it’s getting dark Buddy
you better stop
can’t stop on the highway
some articulated eighteenwheeler
some BIG FOOT
come behind us
no visibility
now I nail my one good eye
to the white-dark wraparound
like one big cataract
faint red lights
turning off ahead
now nothing
down there’s a turn
somewhere down there
I hit the gas down hard to the floor
it’s dark and white like being wrapped in ermine
if we weren’t doing eighty ninety a hundred
it’s like a toboggan like the OLYMPICS
SWOOSH SWOOSH and we’re out off in SPACE
the cold moon and stars ahead
I push my WING-EXTENDER BUTTON
and now it’s STAR TREK
THE PANORAMA OF SPACE
I can see through the thick clusters of stars
Ahead there deep
GOD’S BRIGHT MUSICAL CASTLE
but the saucers hold us floating in air
HIGH OVER GRACELAND
You can see the lights
I told them I told them
And THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS
of GOLDEN COINS COME GLITTERING
CRASHING OUT

 

 

BIO

E.M. Schorb is a prize-winning poet and novelist. His Dates and Dreams, Short Fictions, Prose Poems, Cartoons won the latest Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Award for Poetry and is announced in the magazine’s current issue. Murderer’s Day was awarded the Verna Emery Poetry Prize and published by Purdue University Press; his collection, Time and Fevers, was an earlier recipient of the Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Award for Poetry and also an Eric Hoffer Award. More recently, Words in Passing, was published by The New Formalist Press. His novel, Paradise Square was awarded the grand prize for fiction by the International eBook Award Foundation at the Frankfurt Book Fair. But Schorb maintains that he is first and foremost a poet, and his poetry has appeared in numerous publications, here and abroad.

 

 

 

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