Alan Catlin is to small press publishing as old man river is to folk songs; been around and he keeps rolling along. He is waiting his next full length book from Lummox Press to be called, Last Man Standing, yet another glimpse into our alien nation at night in bars.
“I can’t decide if you are a detective
or a pervert.” She said, as if we were
characters in some demented David Lynch
movie and maybe we were.
Maybe we were responsible for the severed
ear in the grass of a suburban nightmare.
Or just investigating the removed body part
where insects had begun families in,
watching all the stages of life from maggots
to super flies. That ear, a possible homage
to the lost spirit of Van Gogh, where all the bad
dreams he projected onto canvas were formed.
Or, maybe, we’d descended tunnels of love that
disappeared inside brain cavities, resounding
with echoes of reverberating weapons of mass
percussion, cars, on freshly repaved Maple Avenue
streets. Where we sat, parked, she in the passenger seat,
innocence personified, and me behind the wheel,
sensing her need to become more experienced,
more like the shacked up whore I had spied through
closet door slats, and, she, my nascent love,
not yet aware of her need to be debased and I said,
“What’s the difference?” turning on the car
radio to maximum volume and the four wall to
wall speakers respond with a full frontal sonic
assault of the senses, Dead Wilbury’s singing
Roy Orbison songs in a wide variety
of foreign languages, while, outside the vehicle,
a man named Frank and his gang of thieves, are
smearing the windows with spray paints and
the last thing we see is the man in black gesturing
with his ax for us to follow him to where
the blue bayou meets the inland empire,
that place where all the whores and pimps meet
after death, to warm their cold hands by gasoline
fed fires, in oil drums and ash cans, and we know
we can, as well, now that we have seen the light.
You could meet one anywhere:
a lounge, maybe. Where she stands
leaning on the bar, one foot on the rail,
bright red dress slit up the thigh,
showing a lot of leg like Kathleen Turner
cranking up the body heat.
Or she could walk into your detective agency
to report a missing husband in Act One,
who would turn up dead by Act Three
and a whole labyrinth of graft, corruption
and murder would be revealed by Act Five
like the insides of a cadaver used in an
anatomy lesson, and the woman who had
the most to lose, whom you loved, would be dead
at the wheel of a convertible while you
watch, unable to prevent what must happen next.
Or she could be a seductress who killed,
not so much for pleasure but for profit:
is a black widow in an off-the-shoulder dress
who could deflect even the most moral man
from his sense of right and wrong.
Part Veronica Lake, part Mary Astor,
part a blonde Rita Hayworth, holding a gun
she won’t be afraid to lose in a hall of mirrors
like some demented Lady from Shanghai
on a kill or, to be killed, mission.
Or she is the wife of a short order cook
in a diner on the edge of some death valley
desert and she, like all the others, wants her
husband dead, and before you know what
happened, you are caught in a honey trap
with the murder weapon in hand, and there’s
no way out, and you think, “I’m in hell now,
but it was a long, wonderful road to paradise
In still dark night, nothing moving
but stray dogs scraping remains from
toppled garbage cans, torn plastic
bags, leaving a Rorschach spray of
tomato paste on cracked concrete,
pieces of fortunes to be foretold in hollowed
chicken bones. Outside propped open
double hung windows, heat rises from barely
clinging to high rise apartment buildings,
fire escape slats. Last notes of a symphonic
Songs Without Words, A Symphony of
a Thousand: choral passages like psalms
for the missing amid a scatter of empty
wine bottles, Mickey Wide Mouths, and
a Tall Boy 12 Pack losing its chill.
On a bare mattress, single bed of bent
springs, a man with no future, lies smoking
Lucky Strike shorts, staring at the stains on
peeling, lead based paint walls, flaking onto
platoons of dead soldiers spread all about
the open grave of his pay-by-the-week room.
On a night stand beneath a high intensity
bulb, a muddle of bent, stuck, manual
typewriter keys contain all the chapters
of his life.