Shattered Wig #28

Shattered Wig #28
Coming In November!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

tax time couch

tax time couch

when feet mayonnaise
the party under the balls
sprays heavy shower teeth
above the ears
a breath of burnt tin
and rye toast
a chance operation
of wet marks
in this world
at least
a little bit longer
after running a jukehouse
for three years
in Envelope Alley

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gamelan With My Friend Peter

My friend Peter just turned 40 for the third time. He had a piano player at his house for the party and there was a list of songs from which to choose. His mom chose "Book of Love", but it wasn't the "Book of Love" you'd think. At least not the one I thought or she thought. With great aplomb she sang the old too wop classic a cappella. I sang "Psycho Killer" and it helped me vent my party nerves, my feeling that everything that came out of my mouth was a deflated beige beach ball that some fat kid had thrown up on. Sorry fat kid.

I met Peter and his wife Heather through my old friend and bandmate Diana Froley when we were dating. Peter and Heather could make an enchanted kingdom inside a dank Newark, New Jersey warehouse space and wherever they live they find intimate, magic things to do in hidden places that seem to always be waiting for them.

Peter took me with him to the Indonesian Embassy one day to play their gamelan. This happens once a week on Mondays. I expected we'd go there, walk around the instruments, marvel, tinker a bit. Instead a wired Indonesian conductor who seemed very excited to see us, but grew perhaps increasingly, delicately frustrated with a few us, immediately assigned us a part of the gamelan and then explained in broken english a numerical notation song system that he would write up on the chalkboard.

The first song was rather easy and I was filled with glee and warm confidence. The songs splintered as we went along and grew various segments that he would go back and forth to. My eyes frequently met with one of Peter's other friends who was there and had played at least once before.

Various people drifted in as songs were hammered on the dozens of differently sized and toned gongs and it made me incredibly happy to know that this was going on weekly. One man who came late and was assigned to the largest, deepest gong, had been coming to play in the gamelan group for 40 years.

Friday, April 4, 2014

"Pills" A Brand New Track From The Mole Suit Choir

With fiddle help from Geff Stiubhairt of The Baltimore String Felons.

Megan McShea Rekindles The Fire of The Ancient Party

Long ago, when hairs gathered around heads, when more than five Baltimore poets would be home from touring or the madhouse at the same time, when Chris Toll and Blaster Al Ackerman still trod the earth like parallel universe Lenin and Marx respectively, when young Adam Robinson and Stephanie Barber still held partiers rapt with their wide-eyed tales of the fur trade in Milwaukee in the 1800's, when Amy Peterson still graced Normal's Books & Records on occasion before her step up into the rarefied world of modern New York and its tony celebrity filled co-ops, oxygen bars and petitions against mopery, before Ric Royer The Theater Lad, was thrown into the pee-stained trunk of a Dodge sedan by seedy barstool bard Gene Grigoritis, his fingers removed one by one over the course of nine days (Ric had already lost one as a child in Disneyland, bitten off by the Alexander Hamilton robot), each digit shearing videoed and posted to Youtube then sent to gadfly Tao Lin, with the thoughtful message "I bet this bitch's finger is bigger than your Johnson you poser" - before the writing scene spun out like the final crunchy tableau of "Fast & Furious XX" and toppled from its glorious peak, many disparate souls united by their weirdness and love of morphological word formation, jarring metaphors/contrasts and sometimes plain old oddball oddness scat goof met up every few weeks to become One Big Mind and Write As One With Many.

Usually within the comfort of Megan McShea's afghan-filled cottage where plump Sugar the cat would brush your ankles, yard sale Latin record finds would spin and Megan and Amy and Bonnie would quietly contend for "Most Raven Haired". Sometimes we would sit out on my ragged third floor balcony back when I lived in the Pego Mansion of St. Paul Street across from the Catholic High School.

(Ancient Party editor Megan McShea with author, artist and legend Al Ackerman in Austin in his post-Baltimore years)

Wherever we met, Blaster Al could be counted on to be there with beer and an anarchic spirit to keep the proceedings moving and not too academic and Megan would stir up the poetry machine gadgets to keep rust from forming.

Many nights after hours of scribbling, cutting up and jabbering the circle would fall briefly silent and someone would say "Hey, where's Lauren Bender? Did she take all the Hazelnut Breadstick Pop Tarts?" And there Lauren would be, stuck up in a ceiling corner, wide possum-eyed like a dollar store mylar valentines balloon temporarily forgotten as the young lovers moved into the love room to drop the needle on some Barry White.

(above - Lauren Bender mooshing Sugar the Cat)

But all things (almost all?) end. Or erode/evolve/mutate. Even though they feel natural as breath and just as rejuvenating as they are going on. Such be our writerly coven meetings. Oh they will still happen somewhere with some of us, but Blaster and Chris Toll are huffing ether and playing prepared harp with John Cage on the astral plane, Adam Robinson independent publishing pinup boy is off to Atlanta, Amy is in New York comforting Laurie Anderson and so on and so on, time marches on.

Luckily, though, Megan hung on to our sheaves of scribbles and pored over them, jiggling the ink until gold nuggets rose to the surface. Not only that, she assembled the best into an actual beautiful book and is throwing a Now Party for The Ancient Party at the Windup Space Sunday April 13, 3pm to 5. Come hear some reading from it, gaze upon it, pry greenbacks from your moneysock to buy for your very own. Here's the Your Face link:

The Ancient Party

Here are a few lines from "The Goofball Oracle" to whet your appetite. The Goofball Oracle exercise was everyone would write random questions and place them in one hat and random answers placed in a second hat. Questions would then be pulled from one hat and random answers from the other.

"Hey, what do you guys think of Pammy's new Bummer?" - "The sound of the louvre covered in mallo-mars."

"Was Lincoln a happy drunk?" - "A neon rose garden at the end of the world."

"How many of you are in there anyway?" - "Love is naturally pungent".

Or perhaps a "One Minute Story", s story written within 60 seconds, will win you over:

The way his skin sat on his frame, his skeleton, the whisper of ribs like an automatic round. I still see this sometimes and feel the recoil. Memory does that, transforming the banal into the fantastic.
- John Eaton

(John "Lucky Charms" Eaton, who has been trapped inside the Zoltar Fortune Teller booth on Coney Island since the last writers group gathering.)

The skeleton dancing across the lawn. The skeleton peeping out from behind the shower curtain. The skeleton in the bread box, smaller than the others, so obviously it was the baby.
- Blaster Al Ackerman

Here is one of the "Biographies". Each writer would write a false biography and then mouth the words to the other writers. Then each person would write down what they were lip reading.

"Mortimer Hadley" - by Megan McShea.

I am Mortimer Hadley. I was born in Challenger, Mississippi, along the shore of the Missouri River where seventeen dogs had recently died of exposure to second-hand smoke. No one really understood this at the time, but it would prove to be a fateful pre-episode to my life as an epidemiologist. I attended the Milton Military Pentecostal School for wayward boys until the 9th grade, when I ran off with my guardian angel and began practicing medicine on unsuspecting rural families. Some of my favorite and locally renowned diagnoses are Pale Ghost Disease, discovered in Fallow Holler in the Ozarks, Hollow Stem Fever, which overwhelmed a colony of rabbits in eastern Kansas, and Haddock Mouth, which infested a flock of tiny angels in my hometown of Challenger.

(Lip reading version by Bonnie Jones of "Mortimer Hadley"):
I am Putpott Riding. I was born in South Beach along the coast of whenever. It was heavenly and moldy. Although it was really strenuous for me in the formative years in Ecology I did my. It was wild but right after I was wasted in my family. Memory of an envelope water. Was a rabbit. Fine, back alley. Jaguar.

Well, to paraphrase Blaster, you don't want to sample too many of these deadly treats at one time. But I will leave you with a ritual, the rules of which were worked out in collaboration. This one was written by myself, Ric Royer, Bonnie Jones and Megan McShea.

How to March Into Jerusalem With Your Battle Dress On, Go On Girl!
1. Receive only the absence, not the presence.
2. Wave and pat pouch cloth. Form leg trumpet.
3. Make it ouchie in the Humvee.
4. Make sure that Kirk notices you by wearing so much makeup you look like a clown and appearing at his big gig at the MTV Music Awards with the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots and tell him you're pregnant.
5. Buy a custom fitted mouth guard, the kind for teeth grinding not hockey. Put your head down, groan a little, channel Cormac McCarthy, bend at the knees, wipe that tiny bit of spittle. Rush.

Come join in on the festivities April 13th at the Windup and hoist a glass of something for friendship, collaborations and a Spring much deserved.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Old, White House by Adam Shutz

Old, White House

The house was on fire. I hadn’t brushed my teeth. Mother rushed me up the stairs like it was time for bed. We were followed by grey tails. When she turned in the bedroom doorway, an apse of smoke curved around her and fell as she bent to touch the side of my face. The smoke was from a dream someone else was having. She forced her mouth into a smile. Her eyes wouldn’t do the same.

“Sometimes, things—” She closed her eyes. “It’s just—”

Below us, we could hear the crystal sounds of the fire, the wooden beams of the house expanding and cracking.
“Let’s get your clothes.”

In big armfuls mother grabbed everything inside the dresser drawers and threw them on the bed. The walls of the room murmured. They brought in voices from outside the house, voices which started as shouts on the front lawn and ended as the shadows of sounds humming up the wires behind the walls. Then the air left the room and the color left with it. Across the bed, mother busied herself to leave. The sun behind her, the low light, she appeared translucent in front of the window.

One by one she picked from the pile of clothes a shirt, a pair of pants, folded them on her chest, and neatly placed them in the suitcase open on the bed. When she finally snapped it closed, we were the only things in the room not lost to smoke.

“We’re not coming out yet. I’m not coming out.” Mother tripped as she made her way to the bay window. She had begun to shut her eyes.

I wasn’t there. Mother didn’t want them to know I was there. “You’ll have to wait. It ain’t time,” which she said more to herself than to the men outside, who were grumbling at the walls of our house. From the center of the living room, away from the window–mother warned me from the window, told me, “Nothing good will come of looking”–I saw fifty men if there were five, each identical to the next, faces melting in rage, raising their arms in violent fits, threatening the house with shotguns and signs and rocks.

And, there, just behind them, in a line near the crumbling road, were their women, wives and daughters, old and young, motionless and entranced by the violent gestures of the men: a calm, flat sea behind the breaking waves. I wanted to say that I knew at least a couple of the men from town, but couldn’t. They were lost in fits, blurred as if in passing.

Mother was hunched over. She was breathing heavy from one room to the next, passing with arms full—albums and frames and fetishes and fruit—going one way, then carrying another pile, going the other. Outside, the men became dull in the fading sun. Their outlines only hinted at by the light of the fire spreading from the garage to the roof and down the sides of our house.

It was nearing dark. I was hungry. When we first heard the shots on the front lawn, mother was in the kitchen making dinner. The sounds of the gun must have made her remember something. She said, “You’re father… he’ll be late tonight. We’ll have to eat without him.” Then the fire started.

She picked up the suitcase, said I’d have to wait in the cellar for father, smiled again, and looked to her feet for things that had fallen. The smell of supper’s chili was still in the air. Before we made it to the basement steps, the sofa was in flames.

​“Hold your breath,” mother said, as she placed me and my suitcase in with the furnace and handed me a wet cloth to hold to my mouth. When I did she looked angry, grabbed the cloth and tied it around my head.

When mother said goodbye and closed the door to the closet, I laid my head against the cold furnace to hear the cracking of the fire through the air ducts. Inside, there was a language to the embers, a chattering logic of the wind and the wood. I tried to make out what they had to say. When she left I listened to her, to mother, to her steps, their simple rhythm like something on high melting and dripping onto a hollow log. As she reached the top, she turned on the cellar light. The closet remained dark. I watched the smoke seep under the door, a slow, grey cloud lit with an orange center of light. Somewhere in the cloud the planet began to fall away.

​I remember someone saying, “It’s a kind of boy.” That was the first thing I heard.

A man in a fireman’s hat pushed the metal and wooden debris off me. They were black like I was black and everything was wet with ash. Above the man in the hardhat I could see clear through the ceiling, past the smoke slated with light, to a sky bright and clear and blue. ​

Another man in a hardhat, but in a different uniform, pulled me from the furnace and carried me through the cellar door to the driveway. Most of the house was gone. What was left was crooked. Around the driveway were vans and trucks and many more men in hardhats, some in uniforms, others in jeans. To each side of the driveway was a small crowd, smaller and far less menacing than the day before. They wore different faces. They stood different and acted different and were hushed. When the crowd noticed me in the hardhatted man’s arms, what little sound there was fell silent. The scene was softly alive with the grumbling sounds of engines and the terminal type of whisper. One in the crowd pointed and looked surprised. He said something to the man next to him who turned and darkened his face. I cowered into the hardhatted man’s chest and tried to rid myself of his dark look.

I was in the open air. I wanted to be back were my mother put me to be safe, back where it was dark and sleepy and cool against the metal furnace. I didn’t want the crowd to see that I couldn’t hide as well as my mother wanted. ​

The hardhatted man placed me in a gurney in the back of an ambulance, strung a plastic mask around my head, gave me a deep, knotted look, then closed the door. Through the ambulance walls, I could hear the muffled voices of the crowd grow and speculate. They spoke about me, about my house, about my mother, but what they meant I couldn’t tell. I tried to hide myself in the corner of the gurney because I couldn’t tell. After a moment, the ambulance’s engine started. The siren bleeped and stopped and we began to move. From the small window in the ambulance’s back door, I could see a wisp of smoke rising from my house into the sky, over the heads of the crowd, over the vans in the driveway and the fire trucks and police cars, over the road and mailboxes and the neighbors’ houses, over the trees and the sign for Last Stop Tavern, over the overpass and the cars on the overpass, over more trees and roofs and over the green ridges of the hills. Over the hospital gate and doctors’ faces and smiling nurses. Over the television I couldn’t turn off and the machines that beeped and hinted I was alive. Over the grey-suited man who took me from the hospital a week later. Over Belington. Over West Virginia. Over Clair who spoke in a soft voice and kept me in the old, white house for years after. Over the woman that pretended to be my mother. Over my mother. Over the noise of the crowd that gathered at night on the lawn of the old, white house.

Adam Shutz is the editor of "Artichoke Haircut." Adam Shutz once had a dog. Adam Shutz once collected snow. Adam Shutz now collects water and snow and sometimes ice. He doesn't like to collect water, that happens by default. Tragic.