Driver’s Side Airbag #28
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"Like the hands,the mind can be used for anything."
—Ewa Kuryluk

People are afraid to give up.

On earth, a million glistening humiliations
punctuate the atmosphere like suckerfish.
The hamburger stands of Aberdeen lie broken
near the highway like lost suitcases.
Miles of dresser drawers.
Miles of hooves and meat.
The world thunders past in getaway cars.

Despite promises of enormous benefit,
people refuse to throw their lives away.
A spiritual filth leaves its’ residue
on the furniture. Of America.

Deposits of stale jet fuel evaporate
into gaping night air where the ghosts
of casseroles fill syringes in rest homes
with a stinking open heartbreak.

Inside the popcorn, there is earache.
Inside the earache, Bob Hope.

The pieces fit alarmingly together
like encyclopedias into the freezer
and with dark clouds licking Omaha
the armhole of an evening’s dream
produces fists which pummel the emptiness.

In the display case of the twentieth century
there is a poker chip and the lindy hop.
You bet the motorcades backed up in the streets
while we danced our way through fat nightmares.
You bet.

John Colburn

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by Robert W. Howington

February 1 — I’ve worked for the government for close to ten years now and all I ever hear from the public at large is non-stop bitching. Whether it’s about what the President is doing to further fuck up our once great country or how some law passed by Congress has been a hardship on them personally to the same old tired line that ALL federal employees are nothing but lazy fuckers who sit on their asses and don’t do shit and get well paid for it. Yeah, right. My raise this year was a whopping 32 cents per check. That’s right. 32 CENTS!! My rent went up 12 bucks a month. My health insurance went up 34 bucks PER MONTH!! That’s a 40% increase! Oh, yeah, I’m really keeping up with inflation based on those figures. So if anyone has a right to bitch about our government it’s me! Not any of you assholes. A limping old fart will come up to the front desk where I have to sit and take abuse from citizens and say to me, "You better do something for ME dammit! I served in World War II and fought on the front lines with Bob Dole." I tell him, "I don’t owe YOU nothing, bee-ahh-itch. Now get back in line." Other zealous patriots will hammer down the point that they’re paying my salary out of the taxes they pay each year to the I.R.S. "That makes me YOUR boss! So you better do as I say or else!" Of course, President Clinton, sitting comfortably in his Oval Office, away from all public scorn, actually thinks the public’s opinion of federal employees has only gotten better since he first took office. In a special message to all government workers, sent to us via email, he wrote, "Four years ago public confidence in the federal govenment was at an all-time low. But you have begun to change that attitude. Even in a time of leaner budgets and small staffs you have improved service to the public, forged effective partnerships with communitites and private businesses and discarded old-fashioned management systems. Now for the first time in decades, public opinion of federal agencies is markedly on the rise." Yeah, right, boss. People HATE government employees. President Clinton, obviously, is out of touch with reality. I’m sick of the public I have to serve. They’re relentless crybabies with inane complaints. Don’t these whiny citizens realize by now that our form of government, ‘by the people, for the people’, is an ongoing experiment in almost complete futility? Why do these jerks expect so much out of federal workers anyway? For one thing none of us went to Harvard. At least me and my co-workers didn’t. It doesn’t take a person with a genius IQ to do basic data entry and staple papers together and address envelopes. Most of us got our jobs because we could type 40 words a minute with three errors or less. We’re no better educated than most of the American work force. ,Instead of having a stellar resume and college education we simply passed a multiple choice test to get our jobs. There’s absolutely nothing special about us. Like other workers out there we like to go home after work and drink beer and watch tv until we pass out. Like the majority of our fellow Americans, our motivation levels are below average too. We don’t care about trying to get ahead. We don’t care about moving up in the governmental hierarchy because that would involve too much effort and the increased job responsibilites would only add to our already high stress load. We’d rather catch up with the Jones’ by winning the Lotto. Like most people we too live paycheck to paycheck. And if you think what we do doesn’t make any sense, like trying to place a square peg into a round hole, well, you gotta understand we’re only following orders from headquarters. And those idiots in Washington, D.C., as you've expected, don’t know sheee-ought. They tell the field offices to do things a certain way even if the way they want us to do something doesn’t make any sense. But orders are orders, directives are directives and policies are policies. Do them the way they’re written up in the regulatory books or else it’s your ass. And you can’t argue with Washington, D.C. The braintrust there doesn’t give a fuck what YOU, the person taking the mortar hits in the field, thinks. So the federal workforce ends up doing things that seem stupid to the public. And these workers catch hell for following orders, for doing what they’re told to do. So if you want to bitch about something the government does that pisses you off tell the Washington, D.C. figureheads where to go not me. I’m a grunt on the frontline not a policy maker who’s out of touch with what’s really going on in America, land of the freeloaders and home of the Atlanta Braves. Just today some citizen was on the elevator with me at the Dept. of H.U.D. in downtown Fort Worth where I work as a clerk. Before he got off on the third floor he turned to me and said, in a whiny voice, "These elevators sure are slow." Like, what in the hell was I supposed to do about the fucking elevators? As he turned his back to me, while stepping off the elevator, I flipped him the bird. What this asshole said to me was typical of the spoiled, bratty American mob. This citizen complains to me about something I have absolutely no control over. But because I’m a federal employee he targeted me for his petty gripe about the elevators. If anything goes wrong in anybody’s lousy, miserable life guess who gets all the blame for it — ME! I have been cussed at. I have been threatened with lawsuits over the phone. I’ve gotten death threats in the mail. Some disgruntled person sent an actual piece of their own shit to me. I’ve been stared down. People have accused me of fucking them over. More than once I’ve heard mad as hell people who aren’t going to take it anymore say, "That’s a federal employee for ya!" And this is after I’ve gone above and beyond my call of duty to try to help them out of their predicament. I’ve been told many, many times what my job is and how to do it by people who likely attended the casting call for hillbillies for the movie "Deliverance." So it ain’t no fun stroll with the straw man down the yellow brick road being a federal employee. You take so much shit from people you start to think you are a piece of shit. No wonder so many of us go ‘postal’. But instead of pointing and firing our semi-automatics at co-workers we should be aiming our barrels at the public. They’re the real moral killers, stress zombies and regular pains-in-the-asses. They get on our nerves a lot more than all the incompetent, uncaring supervisors and jealous, petty and lazy co-workers we work with. We expect never-ending crap from those motherfuckers. But to get constantly razed, dissed and bitched at by John Q. Public is an irritant I could gladly do without. I come home from another nine hour blitzkrieg at H.U.D. and tell my wife, Crista, some shithead told me to go to hell at work today. She’ll ask me why people are so mean to me. "Because they’re at the end of their ropes. There’s nowhere else for them to go to. When they get to me, after being transferred ten times, they snap like a dried twig. I just hope they’re not surfin’ the Information Super Highway trying to find out how to make a fertilizer bomb."

Three Minute Poem 1997

They say this has to be a poem
a three minute poem and
not a crying exhbition
even though I am getting to
be so much better at crying
than I am at writing poetry
I am missing pieces
of myself today,
my friends have died again,
more this year than last
and it’s turning into a trend that
will not be reversing itself
they took large chunks
of me along with them -
hey do you think I got
so brilliant all by my fucking

They are not looking down on us
Monica and Marco
Mike Wilson and Herbert Huncke
Tiny Tim and Timothy Leary and
all the rest of them
They are out celebrating by blowing horns
with the archangels or possibly
growing horns with the devil
not sitting up there watching
this crowded room full of
egomaniacs who will be getting upset
when they read their four, five or ten minute poem
and are dragged off stage with a crowbar

It is time for me to make the horrible
confession, yes, I have coffee stains
on my teeth and
I dreamed my bird Elvis
had somehow amputated both his wings
which continued to fly without him
as he waddled under them sadly
in my hallway
After years of blemish free skin
I am growing moles and warts
and giant pores
infections are attacking me right and left
leaving deep holes in my nose
and vampire bite scars on
my legs
I am beginning to look like the witch
I have always been
I have an unnerving desire
to carry pornographic tarot
cards with me everywhere I go
and turn people into 16 MB memory chips

I have an internet lover
who wants to drip hot wax
on my private parts and
stick pins into me
while spanking me and hanging me
from the ceiling
since this is best I can seem to do
I would certainly not have him arrested
for it, I can assure you

There are people in this room
who dream of ripping off my head
and shitting down my neck
I am flattered by their infatuation
so I will let them have these
unrequited obsessions
and be glad I can provide them
with some small entertainment
in the desolation of their lives
and besides it makes me feel wanted
and gives me a warm and squishy
feeling in my gut

so as you know, this is the end of three
minute poem for the first day of 1997
the poem that has dangerous fumes in its’ fuel tank
the poem that wants to throw children off
the roof
the poem that dreams of becoming a crossing
guard so it can sell dope to
school kids I mean
after all, who will need it more
with this poem out there
thinking up ways of abusing them
and molesting them
and begging them not to wear a wire.

And this poem is over, which may
be the best for all concerned
because this poem feels like getting Wild & Crazy
it is looking for a job at the post office
it wants to drive drunk without a seat belt
so the best thing I can do is
kill this poem before it pulls the pin out
of a hand grenade laughing like some
mad hyena and saves us all
the trouble of ever having to do
this again!!!

J.D. Rage

The Homecoming
by Andrew Lucariello

The corpse was blue, bloated and far beyond recognition. Its’ stench dominated the vicinity, while a mass of maggots frolicked. A small flame flickered from the spout of gas hissing out of the pierced scrotum, like a clever abomination of the Eternal Flame. The body lay sprawled out on the sagging porch like an insane beacon lighting the way to some parcel of hell. Welcome home.

The screen door fell off the hinges but no one looked up. Dead, bloodshot eyes stuck on a TV screen that had showed only snow since the sixties. The old man sat slumped in his recliner, as usual, that mysterious gelatinous slop slimed on the stump of his right arm and all over his hair. His underwear had been worn for decades, yellowed and stuck to him. He refused to wear clean laundry after we were given a washing machine to replace the old, broken washboard. He wouldn’t wear anything washed in the "belly of an electric demon."

Mom sat hunched over the coffee table, hollow-eyed, gaunt, with night gown crusty, playing solitaire with a stack of old recipe cards. Vinegar pie...blood many times I wondering if the ingredients were scrapings from her own body. Most of the cards were old, parched foreskins falling apart. She never won a single game.

My big brother was there, face stuck on the fuzzy screen, a few sacks of cement in his guts. I looked up to him when I was a kid, he was always so cool, so "with it". He was never likely to shit a brick over anything, even with a gut-full of cement. He had hardly shit at all since I left—I could see that in his eyes. It had all welled up into his head.

Little skeletons on the floor puzzled me for a moment until I realized that they were my little sisters. Maybe Mom forgot to feed them, her mind immersed in solitaire. I bet everyone watched them decay, yelling at them all the while to get out of the way of the TV. Little flower dresses draped over piles of bones that were once busy little bodies...fragments of dead pets...Mom, Dad, and big brother watching the tube. Portrait of an American family.

I sat down with the only bone of my dog I could find and wondered why I even came back. Nothing ever changes. That’s why I packed my shit and left that one summer night, bound and determined for something better. At least a life without corpses at the dinner table. Yet years later I came crawling back to a family who seemed neither dead or alive. What is it in blood that forms the ties that bind? Why does it prevail even when love and general humanity fail, or never exist? It must be some kind of sick loyalty that plagues the human race.

I haven’t left since I came through that door again. I clutch the femur of my dog and hide in my room, listening to the sound of death in the living room. I tried to find something better on the tube, and in the process landed on Wheel of Fortune; then suddenly everyone bitched at me to get the hell out of the way. Mom told me to go to my room so I sit here talking to the bones of my dead goldfish that are floating in rancid water.


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