Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 7
A Tribute to Michael H. Hanson on his 52nd Birthday

Compiled and Critiqued by Anthony Servante

This month of December 2013, we celebrate the words of my good friend, Mike Hanson, author, poet, observer of life and love, in all its forms, from painting to people. This month he celebrates his 52nd birthday. 

A fellow F. Paul Wilson fan, we met many years ago on the Repairman Jack website. Besides Paul, whom I also call friend, Mike and I became comrades. We put an anthology together called Keepsakes, a tribute to Wilson, but that didn't work out (there wasn't Amazon Kindle in those days). What did work out was that Mike and I have been in contact by Repairman Jack Website posts, emails, and now Facebook since we first met online. 

I've always loved his narrative voice in his fiction; he has a strong vocabulary and knows how to wield it. But then there's Michael H. Hanson the Poet. He softens his vocabulary to strengthen the themes of his poems, to match the paintings that inspire his poetry, and to reach the universal reader. Between his Sha'Daa series of Science Fiction books, Mike has published two collections of poetry in print ("Autumn Blush" published by YaYe Books and "Jubilant Whispers" published by Diminuendo Press). 

We are honored to have Mr. Hanson, the Poet, share some original work with us today. Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to present Michael H. Hanson.

Mike Hanson

At 52
by Michael H. Hanson

So here I am at fifty-two,
a somewhat cautious, wiser man,
much less judgmental in this queue
of mortals marching to the end.
Don't call me middle-aged my friend,
I think I've exited that door.
Unless saved to computer chip
I won't live to one hundred four.
And passions, yes, still riddle me
with all manner of fierce desires.
A cauldron of outrageous dreams,
I feel love's unrequited fires.

I wonder what wonders I'll see
upon Earth's face
flinging through space
from now until I'm fifty-three.


W. B. Yeats wrote about aging since he was twenty years old. At such a young age, he wondered at the injustice of growing old. Later in life, in his 60s, he realized that he was repeating himself about the inevitability of elderly life, saying the same thing in different ways. In At 52, Mike sparks a similar realization. When he tells the reader not to call him "middle-aged", he admits that those years have already passed, as has young adulthood and youth itself. He admits with courage that he is ready to face Death, as he is but one on many "in this queue
of mortals marching to the end." 

But in mind and spirit, he also admits that he is still young at heart, yet feeling "love's unrequited fires." And with age comes wisdom but "passion" yet endures in all its mystery. It is here that his final realization comes, that like passion, life is still an unfinished mystery with "wonders" abounding everyday, from birth until death, from birthday to birthday.

We, on this side of 50, share this wonder with Mike. In youthful ignorance, there is untamed passion, but in aged understanding, we smile at the fact that life is "no country for old men" (Yeats).


“Enlightenment” – painting by

Midnight in Moon Alley
by Michael H. Hanson

We journey through endless alleys
Bathed in moonlight, led by candles
Speaking in whispers, wispy and soft
Holding hands, smiling in shadows
The warmth of night clutching our breasts
Our footsteps as light as cats’ feet
We float and flow through the city
Dream-like serpent of human flesh
A living train of such good will
Our blush heralds our arrival
And angels greet us with their song.


Mike trends some new ground here, and I welcome it. Midnight in Moon Alley is a sustained metaphor wrapped in figurative language, familiar yet foreign. We hear what he speaks, although he uses another language that we do not understand. Much like "irony", which can confuse many who are deaf to its purpose, this poem resonates with meaning.

We follow an unseen presence on a "journey" through darkness, perhaps ignorance or impending death, but false light guides us (moonlight, candlelight - the vessels that give our eyes primitive sight, as opposed to the natural light of the sun that carries the full spectrum of color). As our eyes are deceived, so, too, are our ears, for we speak in "whispers", a symbol for fear of being heard. It is the "night" that brings on this fear, this "hand holding".

But the night brings "warmth", a symbol for the afterlife. Like souls "we float" through the city, through life (the "cat" here can represent the nine lives or man's luck at avoiding death on occasion). Ultimately, however, death will greet us as "the angels" singing a song.

If I didn't know better, I would include this poem with the previous one as one of Mike's Death Cycle poems on aging. But it's such a fine example of poetic writing that I can forgive him his pessimism, even if it includes a trip to Heaven.


“Expression in Blue and Green”
oil painting by
Artist Martina Shapiro

Night Swimmers
by Michael H. Hanson

She is a creature of water
wading through tidings and greetings
unaffected by the currents
of shallow, chill conversations.

The warmth of laughter draws her near,
luring her with a full chuckle,
enticing glow of ruddy blush
and the scent of frank loneliness.

Calmly, quietly she drifts close,
preternatural gaze,
entrancing and mesmerizing,
quickly startling and capturing.

Floating in wispy greens and blues
and all of fate’s rapacious hues.


Night Swimmers is a metaphor for loneliness in a "sea" of socializing, perhaps bars and other night spots where singles meet. As a "creature of water", our loner walks (wades) through many clubs, greeted by flirtations and pick-up lines but "unaffected" by the phonies. She seeks real companionship, and if she's lucky, real love, here represented by the "warmth of laughter". But she is cautious as she approaches the merry sound that is like a lure, a hook waiting to catch her like a fish in the pond. Yet she "drifts close" to the risky lure hoping to be caught by the right guy, wondering what "fate" awaits her.

Mike explores the lonely side of love here, its expectations and risks. To find that love that will make the loneliness vanish, one must sometimes get caught in the wrong relationship with the wrong person. We can only try again and again with equal parts despair and hope in our empty heart. A very touching sentiment in this age of cyber connections between people.


“Whisper of Papillon” – painting by artist Dorina Costras

Fomenting Azure
by Michael H. Hanson

She bathes in the soft, blue whisper of wings
Laving in living silken caresses
Such a tender, sensitive second skin
Masking countenance, and cradling her flesh
Circling the emerald seas of her sweet eyes
Luminous blanket held tight to her breast
A thousand wispy and tactile kisses
She bathes in the soft, blue whisper of wings.

I really love this painting "Whisper of Papillon"; so much so, I friended artist Dorina Costras. One can easily see how taken Mike is by this work of art as his poem Fomenting Azure explores the piece in an almost descriptive narrative of the content and model in the painting. The words and picture meld, no, coalesce, nicely, turning words and colors into a new mixture, creating a new form. Alone the painting works impressively, but with Mike's words, it shines all the brighter; the poem, sadly, is weakened without the work by Costras.

I have pointed out in the past that Mike has a gift for creating one form, where words and paint become a hybrid art piece. At times, his words overshadow the paintings, and at other times, they work perfectly together; but sometimes the painting overshadows the words. Costras takes the match by a split decision, but with art such as hers, I challenge any poet to write to the level of her art.

Valiant effort, Mike. I can't wait for the rematch.


(music and lyrics and vocals by Merry Ellen Kirk)

Oh say if all of the raindrops
Were ten thousand gumdrops
Now wouldn't that be sweet
Oh say if all of the snowflakes
Were ten thousand milkshakes
Now would that be neat

But when the sky falls
There's nothing at all
And then you just crawl
You can't find your own

And there's nothing to eat
There's nothing to eat
Nothing to eat
But candy

Oh say if every teardrop
Would stop by the sweet shop
To play hide-and-seek
Oh say if every pipedream
Were strawberry ice cream
Now wouldn't that be neat

But when the sky falls
There's nothing at all
And then you just crawl
You can't find your own

And there's nothing to eat
There's nothing to eat
Nothing to eat
But candy

So say that all of the raindrops
Are ten thousand gumdrops
Now isn't that sweet

And when the sky falls
There's nothing at all
And then you just crawl
You can't find your own
And there's nothing to eat
There's nothing to eat
Nothing to eat
But candy


I asked Mike to select this month's song whose lyrics qualify as poetry. So I did the critique before I listened to the music. He came up with Candy by Merry Ellen Kirk. I hope you will read her words before you play the video below. Let's get to the poetry therein.

We have seen thus far in Michael H. Hanson's poetry the themes of life, love and loneliness, so it is no surprise that Candy falls under the latter subject matter. Merry compares life, via nature (rain, snow, sky) with human emotion (tears, false hope, or "pipedream[s]") and re-imagines them as childlike fantasies, where candy and ice cream were replacements for our "real life", tasting life with layers of syrup added to ensure it would be sweet. But it isn't. It's just a fantasy. She writes, "But when the sky falls/There's nothing at all", except "candy"; or in other words, life is sad unless we had happiness to it. You might as well replace the word "candy" for booze or drugs or other false happiness. 

Our songstress does not find "happiness" in nature or in life; she needs to "sweeten" it to enjoy it. It's like waking up hungover; Merry explains, "And then you just crawl/You can't find your own/Feet". Without the false niceties we add to achieve a happy state, all we have left is our fantasies, or as Kirk poetically describes it, "And there's nothing to eat/There's nothing to eat/Nothing to eat/But candy". Note how she repeats the phrase "nothing to eat" (or lack of real happiness) unless we pretend to be happy with a dependence on euphoria inducements, or "candy".

Very poignantly sweet poem. No pun intended. Now listen to the song. It's a beautiful melody, which makes the words all the more sadder. 

Candy by Merry Ellen Kirk

Thank you for joining us for this month's look at Poetry Today. As always, we welcome your poetry submissions and comments. Until next month, your host, the Servante of Darkness bids you good reading.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Anthony Servante Horror Story of the Month

Welcome, dear readers, to our new monthly feature with author Lisa Lane, as she is known on Facebook, as our Horror Writer of the Month for December. Enjoy our first blood-chilling entry into the Horror Biz. 
                                                                                                             Anthony Servante


The Great American Sock Puppet Show
by Leigh M. Lane

Samantha winced as she opened her eyes, finding a bright, hot light aimed down over her.  Her head throbbed.  Nausea threatened her stomach.  She tried to sit up, only to find she could not.  Her eyelids fluttered, and she forced herself to look beyond the light but saw nothing.  Where the hell was she?  How did she get there?  What on earth … what was in her mouth?
Something soft but firm held it open, something that filled it so completely her tongue was helpless to push it out.  She raised her head and looked down at her body, which she now realized lay strapped to a bed in four-point restraints.  She screamed, but only a muffled moan escaped past the material in her mouth.
A door creaked open.  Her breath sent still while footsteps alerted her to someone’s approach.
“Oh, good.  You’re awake,” said a man in a chillingly calm voice.  He walked up to her and loomed overhead.
She could not see his face, the light offering only a silhouette of his form.  Hot tears pooled in her eyes and rolled down the sides of her head when she blinked.  She labored her mind to recall where she last had been and what she’d been doing, but a heavy fog stalled her thoughts.
“That was one hell of a merlot, wasn’t it?” the man said.
The merlot … dinner.
“I usually don’t take a lady home on our first date, but you’re not just any lady, are you?”
She shook her head with another muffled cry.
“The great Samantha Hendersen, horror author extraordinaire.  Everybody loves you.  You could shit on a page and they’d all call it gold.”  He walked a few steps away, lit a cigarette, and then returned to her side, blowing a cloud of smoke into her face.  “Isn’t that right?”
She continued to shake her head, screaming into the gag.
“You thought you could get away with ruining me.  You thought you might stay on your little pedestal a little longer if you stepped on the little guy.  Truth is you couldn’t stand the competition.”
Her body trembled, cold sweat soaking through her shirt and hair.  She labored to breathe through her stuffy, runny nose.
He ashed on her shirt, and the light ember burned for a moment before going out.  “There’s one thing I’d like to know before we proceed, one burning question that’s kept me up for nights at a time, driving me batty: Why me?  If I removed the sock from your mouth, would you give me an answer, or would you scream?”
She tried her best to portray with her facial expression alone that she would be compliant, but when he pried the sock from her mouth, she screamed so loudly her vocal chords went immediately raw.
He stuffed the sock back in with a violent thrust.  “Bitch!”
She fell into hysterics, yanking at the restraints, continuing to scream through the sock.  It was futile and she knew it, yet she couldn’t stop.  It was as though something had taken over her body and now flailed her limbs like a child throwing a tantrum on the ground.
Searing pain burned into her chest as he snuffed out the cigarette.  As calmly as one would saunter down the road, he left her side.  Was he going to leave her there to contemplate her fate?  Was he going to wait until she exhausted herself too much to continue fighting?
She looked down when she felt him capture one of her feet and immobilize it with one hand.  She saw the gleam of a needle right before it found a vein along her arch, felt the burn of something entering her system, and then a sudden sense of disorientation strong enough to dissociate her mind from her limbs.  She concentrated on moving them, only to find every muscle unresponsive.
“Ketamine,” the voice echoed.  “It’s what doctors use when they perform surgery to keep the body still.  It’ll make all of this much easier on both of us.”
She thought to scream again, finding even that impossible.
One by one, he released her hands and feet.  “I can’t help but wonder how you convinced so many people to fuck me up.  You all call me cocky behind my back, but I’m not cocky—I’m confident.  Is that alone enough to earn your wrath?  Or did you and all your buddies decide you just didn’t like me, that you’d do what you could to discredit me and drive away my readers when you know very well I can write circles around any of you?”
She would have scoffed and spit in his face if she’d had the capacity.  Whoever he was, he had a lot of nerve.  She hadn’t recognized his face when they’d met for their date, and she hadn’t recognized his name from any social media, but many writers used avatars and pen names in order to keep a firm delineation between their personal and professional lives.  She could only guess at his identity, the possibilities numerous.  She did, however, have no question as to the motivations that lay behind the attack, although she couldn’t imagine how he’d found her out.
She and a handful of friends had made it their mission to tear dozens of rival authors’ works to shreds in a barrage of one- and two-star reviews.  Every one of their targets had gotten what was coming to them, inflated egos, self-published hacks, and absurdly critical peers alike.  Indie authors devised “sock puppets,” or fake reviews, all the time, and they did so for different reasons.  Sometimes it was in the hopes of creating feigned popularity for their work.  In others, it was a way of crippling a rival or taking personal revenge against a negative peer review.  Samantha and her crew had turned it into an art form, putting the little people in their place while they themselves rose through the ranks.  It was petty, but it was also empowering.  She had the ability to make or break careers, a gatekeeper in her own right.  Those who’d earned her favor got a nice little boost; those who made her their enemy ended up dead in the water.  Do not pass “Go.”  Do not collect two hundred royalty bucks.  Do not bother writing another book.
It really was true that no good deed went unpunished.
Samantha’s unidentified captor removed the sock from her mouth and adjusted the bed so she sat up at an incline.  She still couldn’t make out anything past the light, but she could see her body sprawled before her.
“Well, you know what they say: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”  He dangled a white tube sock on front of her face.  “We’re going to write a story together, you and I.  Maybe if we’re coauthors, you’ll see fit to take back all those nasty reviews.”
He lifted her left arm and fitted the sock on it, manipulating her thumb to take the heel and tucking the arch in her palm to create a bare sock puppet.  “So, obviously we’ll be writing a work of horror.  I thought we could begin with a male and female lead.”
He threaded a needle, knotted it neatly, and then held it inches from her face for a moment.  “It can be a story about truth, a story about justice.  These characters, this man and woman, could rise together above community politics, set the system straight.  What do you think?”
He grasped her arm, holding the edge of the sock firmly in place, and then pierced the needle through the sock, thrust it through a pinch of skin, and pulled it through.  Her arm stung as though hit by an angry wasp, the pain radiating in all directions, and the sock went red with blood.  “Or, perhaps she turns on him, totally destroys his career.  What do you think about that?”
Tears streamed down her cheeks.  Her body ignored the impulse to scream when she saw him move in for a second stitch.
“So, how would we open our story?” he asked, his words like shards of ice.  “Maybe we could start with one of them writing—no, writers writing about writers is too cliché, isn’t it?  Stephen King might get away with it, but he’s the King and can get away with anything.  As for me, I can’t get away with anything.  I’d get reamed for it, even with your name slapped onto the byline.”
Stitch, pull … stitch, pull….
“So, let’s see.  This man and woman come together for some other reason, some other industry.  Music?  The visual arts?”
Stitch, pull….
“Maybe the woman is a starlet and the man is an aspiring actor.  What do you think?  Or, even better, stage performers?  Yeah, I like that.  She’s the female lead in a big Broadway play, and he’s the male lead’s understudy.  He wants so desperately to make it to the big time, to make a living doing what he does best—and he’s damn good at what he does, as underappreciated as he is.”
With the stitching finished, he held up the raw, bloody mass to assess his work.  “One down….”
She watched in silent horror while he slipped a second sock onto her other arm, tucking in the puppet mouth like he had with the first.  She went dizzy, her heart racing, when he rethreaded the needle and began to sew.
“So, maybe he asks her to talk to the director about getting him an actual role.  She’s hesitant though; she’s afraid he might upstage her.”
Stitch, pull….
A wave of nausea made her eyes roll back.  Her vision dulled.
He slapped her a few times on the cheek.  “Still with me?”
A heavy ringing filled her ears, slowly overpowering his voice.  Tunnel vision closed in.
“So this actor—”
Darkness … emptiness … nothingness….  Her thoughts sailed through the strange, senseless void, comprehending only that something had pulled her from the moment.  The question of where she was failed to enter her mind.  The pain had vanished, a reprieve for which she was grateful, but she knew it would only be temporary.  There was no question her torment had only begun.
Through the darkness, images began to appear.  First, there was a stage.  No, not a stage … a wooden booth.  It was colorful, painted in bright red, green, and blue, a striking contrast to its black backdrop.  A clown wearing a tattered, oversized suit and makeup that melted down his face entered the scene.  His eyes were lifeless, white glass orbs, and yet he seemed to stare straight at her.  He smiled, revealing rusty needles in place of teeth.
He took an extravagant bow as the ringing in her ears began to abate.
“So, our male lead….  Let’s say he invites our female lead to dinner to help her see reason, but she’s a tough nut to crack so he decides it’s time to move on to plan B,” said the clown in the insane disgruntled author’s voice.  He produced a wine bottle and two glasses from behind his back then filled both glasses and hurled the bottle aside.  It shattered somewhere unseen.
He moved one glass to his empty hand then raised both as if offering a toast.  “He knows a good merlot served just the right way can fix anything, and so together they drink.”  He tapped together the glasses before bringing both to his lips and tipping them back.  He drank very little, most of the wine emptying over his face and frilly top.  It looked like blood when it dripped through the melting face paint, down his chin, and onto his shirt.
With a sleight of hand trick, he disappeared the glasses and donned a sock puppet in place of each.  One puppet had felt eyes, long, yellow hair made of yarn, and crude, lipstick-drawn lips.  The other had buttons for eyes, cotton ball hair, and a tie around its neck.  With a jump and a giggle, the clown ducked behind the booth and raised the puppets to peek through the window.
“Ooooh … I’m feeling a little dizzy!” said the female puppet through the man’s high-pitched, mock female voice.
“Allow me to drive you home,” said the male puppet.
“Maybe I’ll just call a cab,” said the female.
“Like hell you will,” said the male before it opened its mouth as wide as it could and swallowed her whole.  It burped, spitting out yellow yarn.
The clown popped his head up.  “Hey, you still with me?”  He jumped out of the booth and danced up to Samantha.  He moved his face right up to hers with an exaggerated look of concern.  His breath stunk of rotting meat when he asked, “You awake?”  He slapped her a few times on the cheek.
A bright light engulfed the darkness and clown alike, and she gasped at the shock of her captor’s face looming over hers.  The harsh sting across both arms prompted her to shift her attention downward, where both socks now lay firmly attached to her arms.  Blood soaked the upper half of each, and it felt cold and sticky against her skin.  Once more, she tried to move, but her body refused to heed.
He slapped her cheek again.  “You haven’t checked out on me, have you?”
A few more tears escaped her, and he licked one side of her face with a smile.  “Good.  I need you to help me decide on the eyes.”  He held a small assortment of buttons in an open hand then waited as though anticipating her response before picking up a square-shaped, green-marbled one.  “I don’t know about you, but I really like this one.”
He grabbed her left hand and raised it, and stitches tore at her skin with a piercing new wave of agony.  In her mind, she screamed.
He held the button against the sock and gave a satisfied nod.  “I’m getting a nice scene in my head here; they’re practicing their lines and getting all their blocking straight.  If they make it into movie, which I’m sure they will, they could do a really neat montage.  We’ll need a theme song.”  He grinned, a look of cruel inspiration contorting his face.
She watched helplessly while he rethreaded his needle to the hum of “One Way or Another” by Blondie.
Still humming, he held the button just below the knuckle of her first finger and pierced the needle through.  “I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha getcha!” he sang, staring her down with wild, wide eyes and jutting his head forward to accentuate each word.
He stumbled over the next lyrics before dropping them and falling back into a hum.  He attached the button with a careful cross stitch then began on the second, which he sewed onto her ring finger.  He resumed singing when he lifted her hand to give her a good look.  “One way or another, I'm gonna lose ya … I'm gonna trick ya trick ya trick ya trick ya!
He dropped the hand and moved to sort through his collection of buttons for another suitable pair.  After digging out two brown buttons that matched the green, he went around to her other side.  He hummed the rest of the song, letting it fade into a moment of silence when he’d finished giving eyes to the second hand.
“Very nice, if I do say so myself.  Ready for the hair?”  He rummaged through a small bag filled with yarn and picked out a ball yellow and a ball of brown.  He cut several long strands of yellow and a few short strands of brown.  “The skin on the back of the hand is too thin to sew, tears through too easily, so I hope you don’t mind if I use hot glue.”
The glue gun fell into her line of sight, and she imagined herself driving an uppercut into his chin while he moved to glue the first head of “hair.”  She hoped her surprise failed to show when she managed to twitch a finger.
He didn’t appear to notice.  “So, back to our story….  We’ll need a B plot.  I was thinking we could add a small supporting cast of saboteurs, other actors who’ve decided to ruin our protagonist for having the audacity to aspire for greatness.”
She felt her skin singe as he squeezed a nickel-sized glob of hot glue onto the back of her hand.
“They could make up rumors about him, tell all the directors in town how difficult he is to work with, totally have him blackballed,” he continued while arranging the long strands of yellow string along the top of his green-eyed puppet.  “For the horror element, maybe our protagonists just snaps one day over the injustice of it all and goes all Phantom of the Opera on their asses.”
Another searing hot explosion of pain hit her when he daubed glue onto the back of her other hand.
“You know, lights falling on top of people’s heads, cables tripping them into the orchestra pit, a few of them tied up and tortured to death … stuff like that.”  He carefully laid the few brown cuts of yarn into the glue, crossing them over one another to make an asterisk-shaped bowl cut.
Satisfied with his work, he held up both arms to show her.  “Now this is how you do sock puppets.  See how nice they look?”  He moved to his cigarettes and lit one.  With a heavy drag, he paced at the foot of her bed.
She flexed one of her arm muscles, praying he wouldn’t notice.  She had to be discreet about it, had to find a way to test her strength before making her move.  Sick bastard wasn’t going to get away with this.  She’d see to it that they put him away for a good, long time for what he’d done to her.
“I think we should draw from some of our personal experiences for parts of the story—you know, for realism,” he said then took another drag and flicked his ash at her.  “Let me finish my smoke, and then we can go ask the others for their input.”
Others?  There were others?  The room spun for a few seconds while she struggled to process the possible extent of his crimes.  If she wasn’t the only one, how many others had made an attempt to escape?  Was escape even possible?
He took his time smoking, all the while admiring the blood-soaked monstrosities resting along either side of her sweat-soaked body.  When he finished, he put out the butt on her collarbone, tossed it aside, and then pulled her into his arms.  He heaved her over one shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried her down a long hall and into a dark room.
Deciding it was now or never, she summoned the strength to paw one of his arms to her mouth and bite as hard as she could.
He tore it away with a scream, dropping her in the process.
She tried to scramble to her feet, but her balance and coordination still failed her.  She saw his boot coming toward the side of her head before her world once again went black.
When she woke, she found herself strapped into a stage harness, her feet dangling above a shiny hardwood floor.  Thin cables held both of her arms up, creating a sickening mesh of numbness and throbbing pain.  On either side of her dangled colleagues she knew well, four other authors she’d met at conventions and guild meetings, people with real talent who had long paid their dues.  Each had sock puppets sewn onto their arms as well.  A couple of them looked infected … red, swollen, oozing.  She made eye contact with each of her friends, her heart sinking at the defeat etched across each of their faces.
Her entire body flinched when the stage lights flipped on, one trained on each of the sick bastard’s victims.  They were immediately hot, and they sent ominous shadows behind and below them.
The man’s footsteps were loud and confident while he ascended the steps to the stage carrying an open bottle of merlot.  He stumbled, nearly losing his footing while he crossed to the front and center mark, then turned to a nonexistent audience.  There was a slight slur to his voice when he spoke: “As you all know, I’ve been collaborating with some of the most prominent minds in contemporary horror, and I think the story we’ve put together will prove masterful.”
He took a few steps with a thoughtful pose, sucked in a deep breath, and then turned to his macabre cast.  “I think we all had a few creative differences on how it would all end—and, at time, even who the bad guy was—but it all worked out.”  He smiled and took a long pull from the bottle.  “In the world of horror, sometimes the good guy wears black.  In the world of horror, sometimes a story has no choice but to come to a messy end.”
He turned back to his empty audience.  “And so, without further ado, let the puppet show begin!”


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Illuminations (2013) 
New CD from Bill Mumy

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Click HERE to purchase.

Bill Mumy with Back-up Singer

There are three artists in music that I never tire of: Helen Kane, Cab Calloway, and Bill Mumy. What do they have in common? Their music is timeless. While Kane (voice of Betty Boop) sings of 1920s themes, she hits on universal subjects that play to any generation. Same can be said for Cab Calloway, who sang his bluesy ballads from the 1930s (his early hits were recorded for the Betty Boop cartoons) on. 

"Button Up Your Overcoat"

"Saint James Infirmary Blues"

Which brings us to Bill Mumy. 

His music carries on those universal themes: love, death, pain, happiness, etc. Yet he takes the music one step forward, in that he captures the human spirit with songs of hope that range from Rock to Folk to Americana, but always rooted in today's America, just as Kane and Calloway were fixed in theirs. In "What I Got", he sings of love as an adventure (the video for the song transforms its lovers into the characters from THE AFRICAN QUEEN).

"What I Got"

"Think Nothing of It" tells us not to regret our decisions, that there's a bigger picture out there that we are a part of. "Nothing You Or I Can Do About It" laments the merciless march of progress.

"Nothing You Or I Can Do About It"

But my favorite from the twelve selections is "Pulling An Empty Wagon"; it is about the assassination of John F. Kennedy 50 years ago November 22, 1963. It's not just a tribute, but a gentle warning to never forget. There's much sadness in this song, but, again, that's part of those universal themes I mentioned earlier. 

"Pulling An Empty Wagon"

 Bill Mumy remains consistent in his universal music here in "Illuminations", capturing the American tragedies and glories with timeless songs that will transport you to yesterday and tomorrow, and you'll never have to leave today to experience it.  So, add "Illuminations" to your library and save it between Helen Kane and Cab Calloway under "Timeless Music." 

Track Listings:
1. Man With A Gun
2. Sure Of Nothing
3. Fools Gold
4. The One Who Slipped Away
5. Nothing You Or I Can Do About It
6. One More Little Kiss
7. What I Got
8. You In The Light Me In The Dark
9. Consequences
10. Pulling An Empty Wagon
11. Winding Down
12. Think Nothing Of It

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Poetry Today: Trends and Traditions 6

Compiled and critiqued by Anthony Servante

Welcome back, friends of the written word. We have five wordsmiths with us today to share their poetry, and I am here to share my analysis of the work. I have an advanced degree in English Literature; I've been critiquing poetry for over thirty years, so don't try this at home.

Let’s discuss the premise of the poetry column before looking at the words. It is an axiom in academic writing that poetry must speak for itself. A writer cannot interpret meaning for the reader, giving insight to his own words as if they required his presence to clarify the work’s intents. The poem must stand up to the scrutiny of the reader alone. All poetry, artwork and links belong to the respective authors and are used here on a one-time basis only. Thank you. 
With this axiom in mind, we proceed to our poetry for today; we have works by
Michael H. Hanson, Lori R. Lopez, Vincenzo Bilof, Michael Madsen, and song lyrics by Aja Volkman from the song Beast by Nico Vega.

We begin with my grand friend, Michael H. Hanson. 

Michael H. Hanson


Michael H. Hanson created the ongoing SHA'DAA shared-world anthology series which is now being published by Moondream Press, an imprint of Copper Dog Publishing LLC (currently consisting of "SHA'DAA: TALES OF THE APOCALYPSE", "SHA'DAA: LAST CALL", "SHA'DAA: PAWNS," and the soon to be published "SHA'DAA: FACETS).
He has two collections of mainstream poetry in print ("AUTUMN BLUSH" published by YaYe Books and "JUBILANT WHISPERS" published by Diminuendo Press) and is presently compiling his third poetic anthology, "LUMINOUS LULLABIES", and an illustrated collection of poems for children, "THE GREAT SOAP REBELLION".
In 2014, Michael will be overseeing the writing and publishing of the new shared-world, anthology "SHA'DAA: INKED" and the stand-alone science fiction shared world book, NOT TO YIELD.
In 2013, his short story "Failure to Comply" was published in Perseid Press's "WHAT SCARES THE BOOGEYMAN" anthology, his short story "Truth Will Conquer" was published in Gabrielle Faust's "HIGH STAKES" Vampire Anthology, his short story "The ITTT" was published in Janet Morris's Heroes in Hell (HIH) anthology volume, "DREAMERS IN HELL" Michael had stories in the last two HIH volumes, "LAWYERS IN HELL" and "ROGUES IN HELL." His short story "The Traveling Luminous Museum" will be published in Perseid Press's "TERROR BY GASLIGHT" anthology Edited by John Manning.
Michael is also the Founder of the international writers club, THE FICTIONEERS, a non-profit organization created in 2007 to encourage the writing of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, and the creative interaction of fledgling writers with more experienced professionals. THE FICTIONEERS, whose current roster is made up of over 132 authors world-wide, is loosely modeled after those fun children's clubs of mid-20th Century radio fame (Captain Midnight, Little Orphan Annie, etc.).
Michael is a Staff Editor at The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

The Poems:

“Luciana At Calles De San Telmo”
Painting by Fabian Perez Artist

Beauty’s Lament by Michael H. Hanson

She remembers that time she ran away,
that day she fled all of her family,
accepting the first car to faraway,
imagining adventures hungrily.

She left her small town in a summer daze,
she left behind boredom and poverty,
she turned her back on all her yesterdays
for the promises of the big city.

She remembers that joy of feeling free
and closing her ears to her mother’s cries,
not knowing or caring she’d never see
her parents again before each one dies.

And now middle age, standing at their graves
her nails split her palms that bleed as she raves.


Beauty’s Lament by Michael H. Hanson is a piece of poetry inspired by “Luciana At Calles De San Telmo, the painting by Fabian Perez. Mike enjoys finding connections between art and words; he seeks the underlining emotions or meanings behind the imagery. Using an ABAB CDCD EFEF GG structure, Mike continues to dabble in a modern sonnet form, exploring various meter rhythms within the traditional rhyme scheme. The themes, however, are what grounds the words within these poetic devices. Here, especially, where two intents play against each other.

Firstly, we have youth escaping the authority of home. The girl in the painting is seen as a runaway, escaping to San Telmo, Argentina, home to bohemians, artists, and misplaced immigrants; it is a worker’s town, but also a tourist attraction, a place that would appeal to a youthful person seeking “freedom”. Secondly, the age of the girl shifts to middle age and my favorite rhyme, graves and raves, reflect the inevitability of death, which we can’t runaway from, and the raves (or modern day parties of youthful decadence), a word that can also mean madness as in raving lunatic. As such, the decision to escape can be seen as a rush toward growing old, which, of course, echoes the title, Beauty’s Lament.

We have here a poem that is a bit of an anti-carpe diem. It fits well within the Hansonian sonnet form, which itself is a bit of an anti-sonnet.

Nevada Test Site Studies 1: Figures watching” 
Painting by artist Kristian Purcell – Artist

Working Class Apotheosis by Michael H. Hanson

Oh my god, just what have we done
besides turning the night to day
and giving birth to nascent sun
and crossing under hell’s archway.
Surely we can’t be doing this,
ripping into reality,
unholy apotheosis,
amoral creativity.
We’ve torn a gap into chaos,
a door to dark, shadowy realms
that makes me wonder what we’ve lost
as all this power overwhelms.

Perhaps the first deific crime.
we’ve violated space and time.


Working Class Apotheosis continues the anti-sonnet structure, this time omitting the spaces between quatrains. In this style, the poem takes on the look of an ode with the tailing couplet carrying the theme, as is traditional in a sonnet form. Here the theme is the folly of man with his creation of the atomic bomb. Mike plays with light and shadow, order and chaos, and right and wrong. The painting by Kristian Purcell is “Nevada Test Site Studies”, a grayish green scene of faceless men wearing protective dark lenses as they watch an A-Bomb explode. Little did they know back then that such men were destined to die from cancer in a matter of years. What I found most interesting was the title of the poem.

Remember, Mike’s poem is a take on his view of what the painting hides, not shows. The men on the front line of these tests are the “working class” of the title. The apotheosis (although one would assume it is the destructive pinnacle of man’s Industrial Age) seems to be the short lives of the men on the test sites, that this moment is the highest point of their lives; from here on the radiation will begin to deteriorate their cells. As such, it is a crime against god (deific), not only in killing his creations (man) but also “violating space and time”, the fabric of “reality”.
As always, Michael H. Hanson continues to see inside the painting and finds themes to build a poem around. I always look forward to the evolution of his modern sonnet, an undertaking few poets today find use for, but a venture worth pursuing.

Lori R. Lopez


Lori R. Lopez has always loved books since being read to when small, then reading and writing them herself. Her titles include THE FAIRY FLY, OUT-OF-MIND EXPERIENCES, CHOCOLATE-COVERED EYES, DANCE OF THE CHUPACABRAS, THE MACABRE MIND OF LORI R. LOPEZ: THIRTEEN TORMENTOUS TALES, THE MUDPUPPY, THE FOX TROT, and her award-winning novel AN ILL WIND BLOWS.

Her stories and verse appear in anthologies such as MIRAGES: TALES FROM AUTHORS OF THE MACABRE (Black Curtain Press), MASTERS OF HORROR: DAMNED IF YOU DON'T(Triskaideka Books), SPLATTERPUNK SAINTS (James Ward Kirk Publishing), DARLINGS OF DECAY (Dark Shadows Publishing), I BELIEVE IN WEREWOLVES (Netbound Publishing), SOUP OF SOULS (Panic Press), THIRSTY ARE THE DAMNED (Rainstorm Press), THE EPOCALYPSE: EMAILS AT THE END (Pill Hill Press), DEADICATION (Panic Press), and magazines (THE BLACK GLOVE; THE HORROR ZINE ISSUE "GHOSTS AND HAUNTS"; WOMEN EMPOWERMENT). Fifteen of Lori's poems were published for an anthology titled IN DARKNESS WE PLAY (Triskaideka Books). Featured by THE BLACK GLOVE MAGAZINE, CUP OF STARS: WOMEN IN HORROR, BLOODY GOOD VAMPIRES, HOT BOOKS DAILY and more, Lori is a renegade indie author who believes creative writing should not be standardized or conventional. She and her sons are establishing an entertainment website for their many creative pursuits at www.fairyflyentertainment.com, where Lori also writes a passionate often-humorous column called "Poetic Reflections".

The Poems:

The Shudders

In a house on a hill lurked a crooked soul
Whose ambition was gnarled like a gallows pole
He dressed in drabness and wore a sneer
A diamond flashed on the lobe of one ear
His goatee was pointed, his eyebrows thin
The lout could carve by the tip of each chin
And many a fortune did the scoundrel maraud
Filching and looting with scantly a nod
The scalawag rued no callous deed
For Snefarious Grumsquat was a man in need
Who desired wealth far more than his worth
And rose well above a meager birth
By conniving and scheming and acts uncouth
How he chortled at collecting a debtor's gold tooth
Nothing was sacred to a scurve such as he
Robbing children, old ladies quite diligently
Until a night should settle unlike any other
A mantle of blackness that could nearly smother
The villain was home with a cup of rum cocoa
Cackling to himself as if he were loco
When the shutters on the window began to rattle
In demonic rage, spewing constant prattle
It was hardly rational, thus he bolted from his chair
Wondering who was behind it? What fool could dare?
But he spied no trick, they were simply haunted
The shutters terrified him to the state of daunted
Snefarious uttered "Bah!" as evil men do
And the window subsided, then exploded unto . . .
Thus the churl was studded by slivers of glass
Resemblant of a porcupine from the upper class
His shutters kept banging with dire volition
Snef screamed realizing that this was perdition
His transgressions had led to a cosmic unlife
Where his crimes would be punished by torturous strife
That reduced him to squatting in the corner alone
Palms clamped to his ears with a long keening moan
And there he would stay till he crumbled to dust
They found his remains just a pile of rust
Corroded to residue, swept up by a broom
Succumbed to the shudders, this man made of gloom.


The Shudders by Lori R. Lopez offers up a horror tale in prose form. I was a bit disappointed to find the author only hinted at the use of heroic couplets to tell the tale. When Alexander Pope wrote his Mock Epics, such as Rape of the Lock, he relied on the couplet to weave a satiric form that resembled the Milton structure of Paradise Lost. Pope elevated a simple story of a girl distressed by the cutting of a lock of her hair to epic format in an effort to mock the subject matter by treating it as majestic. A heroic couplet consists of two rhyming lines of iambic pentameter, ten syllables per line. Imagine my disappointment when Lori used the couplet rhyme scheme but ignored the ten syllable rule, instead utilizing line length between 8 and 12 syllables at random. Well, now we know what we don’t have. What do we have here then?

As it stands, it is a tale modified by couplets. The story, however, breaks its structure with its unpredictable line length. Consider the first four lines: one and two are eleven syllables; three and four, however, are nine and ten, respectively. Changing line one to “At home” instead of “In a house” in line one, and drop “was” from line two, change “wore” to “grimaced” in line three, and change “flashed” to “glittered” and you’ve got a heroic couplets. So close and so far. Well, it seems I can’t get off the meter. Just as Michael H. Hanson restructures the sonnet form to suit modern themes, Lori alters the Epic Structure to tell an epic story. With a bit more invested time, The Shudders could well be added to the Epics of old. A tweak here and there would elevate this tale to its proper status as an epic poem. As it is, it is a finely told story, but just shy of greatness.

This is a poem I would love to look at again with the epic format. Lori R. Lopez’s poetry is always worth the extra bit of attention to detail.

In all fairness to the author, I asked her to address this coincidence about her poem resembling an Epic format.

Anthony: Hey, Lori, I was really disappointed by The Shuddered. You use a heroic couplet structure common to the epic poems of old (Milton, Spenser, who told similar horror stories via poetry), but although you use the rhyme scheme, you ignore the important ten syllables per line to complete the epic format. What was your thinking behind letting your poem's structure become random? I'd like to put your answer in my review of the poem. I challenged the failure of the poem to be 100 percent epic instead of 90 percent. So close, so far. A couple of tweaks, and you'd have a poem worthy of being compared to Milton. What happened?

Lori R. Lopez: Wow! Ha ha. Well, thank you for comparing it to Milton, Anthony. My thinking on "The Shudders" (not "The Shuddered"), was to write according to my style not anyone else's. I was never consciously imitating Milton or Spenser and therefore was not intending to employ a ten-syllable rhyme scheme. As with prose, I shy away from established devices and specific rules in most cases unless I deliberately set out to use a rhyming form like Haiku. I have used others, but it is rare. I appreciate that you find it so worthy however flawed. But I do not wish to change the poem because I am satisfied. I don't expect everyone to like the way I write. As long as I do, then I know it is worthy of placing MY name on it. It works in theory, anyway. This wasn't intended as an epic poem. I wrote it randomly to give it a more free sense of flow. The poems speak to me, and I merely follow. I do not attempt to tame them with too many rules or restrictions. That is my style, be it poetry or prose. I am striving to create my own form of writing, not duplicate someone else's. That is very important to me, and I do have strong beliefs about how I wish to write. Whether everyone appreciates it or not, I must follow my own voice. Thank you for giving me a chance to discuss the piece, and I hope you liked the other poems more, ha ha!

So there you have it readers. It was a coincidence. The question for poetry geeks is whether it is a happy or a sad coincidence.

a twisted fate

He stole into the city like a vagrant thief of hearts
By nightfall he had toppled every lady's staunch ramparts
And lured them to a tower, there to hold them in his clasp
Mere hostages of fortune, they surrendered to his grasp

With half his face concealed, the damsels had been smitten
Why must the dark appeal? Where was this tenet written?
A chopping block he fashioned, an axe he brandished well
To demand a sum of riches before the first head fell

The city lavished wealth, yet his ransom met no bounds
"More!" the cad demanded, amidst wails and weeping sounds
Though the ladies all would swoon if he but glanced their way
His roguish charm was iffy, still he held them in his sway

The fairest of his captives had raven locks or manes of gold
These femmes would lose their heads for just a smile, it's told
He possessed them in his thrall but there was more he craved
The villain sought respect despite him being so depraved

Love and passion were but trinkets, for he coveted esteem
In a mask he might be anyone, the worst that we could dream
How he hungered for raw fear, and thirsted for disgust
He envied ghouls and monsters for their loathing and mistrust

A nameless soulless rascal who had earned no sympathy
And had never squandered any on his vain and lethal spree
The blackguard bled the town until they'd nothing left to give
And their daughters, sisters, mothers, wives would no longer live

He tossed the heads down yelling, "Look what you made me do!"
Slaying women as if they were objects, leaving only two
A sweet and wholesome lady, her calculating opposite
He descended from the tower, hoping both of them might fit

Abandoning a night-haired beauty, clambering to his coach
He sped off with the lighter version, who seemed beyond reproach
Yet was a cunning witch and shrew, but only time could tell
That each deserved the other, a match made in their own Hell

A posse sprang to horseback and pursued the butcherous beast
Drawn by eight frothing stallions, piled high a glimm'rous feast
His carriage overladen, the treasure's bulk a bridge did cave
The coach and unloving couple were lost as aging timbers gave

Swept deep into a canyon, where gravity would not hesitate —
The posse slowed by a cloud of dust in a happy twist of fate
Justice can't subdue the grief no more than Life can skip a season
But small satisfaction was achieved . . . things happen for a reason.


a twisted fate melds the story with a poetic structure more fitting the prose tale. Using quatrains, comprised of free form couplets, Lori concentrates on the story above the form. A “thief of hearts”, a ladies man, seduces damsels with his face half-concealed by a mask and blackmails the town for money for the release of the women he has captured by captivation. But the penalty for not paying the ransom is that he beheads the captives. The victims do not seem to care, “These femmes would lose their heads for just a smile.” He is a man worth losing their heads over. He meets his match in a “cunning witch” with whom he escapes, but we are left with the possibility that “justice” will be served, that the villain may in fact suffer at the hands of the witch. However, “small satisfaction was achieved”, which implies the villain met with the same foul play he was guilty of.

Here Lori R. Lopez shows her strength at story-telling. Although the language is closer to prose than poetry, the couplet form reveals she can handle a terse format. What I enjoy most about the accomplishment of this poem is the fact that Lori can handle complex storytelling. Now if she can just apply this skill to handling traditional poetic structures, she’d be a modern force in poetry that would demand notice from casual and academic readers alike.

Click here to purchase.

Vincenzo Bilof


From Detroit, Michigan, Vincenzo Bilof is the recipient of SNM Horror Magazine's Literary Achievement award in 2011. A member of the Horror Writers Association, Vincenzo is the author of The Zombie Ascension series and "Nightmare of the Dead". His latest book happens to include aliens; "Gravity Comics Massacre", available from Bizarro Pulp Press. A novel written as a collection of poems, "The Horror Show" is another one of his nonsensical works.

When he's not chasing his kids around the house or watching bad horror films, he reads and reviews horror fiction, though his tastes are more literary. He likes to think Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Charles Baudelaire would be proud of his work. It's possible the ghosts of Roberto Bolano and Syd Barrett are playing chess at his dining table. Forthcoming projects include "Japanese Werewolf Apocalypse", and "Vampire Strippers from Saturn". When he's not writing awful biographies in third person, he works as an editor for Bizarro Pulp Press. You can check out his blog here: http://vincenzobilof.blogspot.com/
He asks that readers of his work are aged 18+.

Gonzo is his favorite Muppet.

The Poems:

In the Name of Scandal

She might walk through walls
on horseback thighs split

riding boots of vengeance
            Teach this tribe to ride
            Suicide valleys of the future
            Dead men tell no tales
Walls inside of rooms eat the light
Flesh-stretched lampshades she might
Let the walls taste
            (upward the scandal cries
            upward of walls the scandal)

I would sever these rings for suicidal valleys
the scandal touches black fishnets
            walls, the scandal is a bird
prey on me
prey on me
You scandal    
            With nice boots, I said

Never hear my name again
Red lipstick walls of face
            (LET THERE BE FLESH)
this suicide wants my dreams
through walls on horseback come to me
in shades of scandal
red lipstick wall of face
a hero for dead centuries lost somewhere between your thighs and smile
through the walls
your name can bleed scandal.

Flies are okay as long as you
forgive the pictures
This fingertip has eyes
I'm not going to stare at the flies between your teeth

Have you heard of Heaven?
            Shit man, let's call the revolution
            ask for our money-back-guarantee

These aren't the nightmares
Lull me down to black
upon a preposition's wings the noun
remembers to drown

Flies again in chorus
            Sing about working in gold mines
            I'll open my mouth for saliva
Open me
This neck
(It's all okay dude saliva is
the sperm of mouths)
I always help a friend breed
            A semi-circle has murdered
            Cigarette ash-tipped incisors
Flies the plane into a thunderstorm
A man flying economy class enjoys a heart

attack into the air. Gulp. Drink of me.


Vincenzo Bilof elevates stream-of-consciousness to poetic levels. (He must put on an amazing reading.) With The Name of Scandal, he organizes a series of images with underlying concepts both common and uncommon to the reader. It is as much a surreal movie as much as a poem, an experience of the senses via the written word.

Here we have a feminine presence driving the images. “She” opens the poem and owns the verbs (the driving action): walk, ride, might let, teach.  The feminine voice changes to a first person narrator; in all likelihood we’ve entered the woman’s mind and continue to see the action via her POV; otherwise, Bilof, himself, has become the narrator and comments on the female. The latter seems possible as he refers to the female: “’You scandal/With nice boots’, I said.” Furthermore, there are more comments referring to a female presence: “Red Lipstick”, for example. If we follow this train of thought, Bilof refers to his writing hand as “This fingertip has eyes/I'm not going to stare at the flies between your teeth”. Remember, the female was riding a horse; it is possible that her smile contains insects, an inconvenience of riders and car windshields. So the “your” here can be seen as the female of the poem, that abstract idea personified for the poet.

Finally, the line between “narrators” blurs. “I” and “She” become lost in each other. The last lines command or order someone (the female? himself?) to action (lull, sing, open). Only the line “I always help a friend breed” distinguishes male from female, although we can also understand the female to be saying this. The final order (“Drink of me”) merges with the death of the narrator, a heart attack in mid-flight. Vincenzo Bilof here draws on death to finalize the union of female and male narrators.

It is always a pleasure to traverse the mind of Vincenzo via his art, just as much as one can get lost in a Brueghel painting, at times seeing the subject matter, and at times seeing the madness of the painter. Bilof captures the madness of art with his words.

Saving a Life

Breasts bleed into a white dress
“I like your hair today”
I thought fucking the princess
            Would assassinate time.

A dress hiked up to her shoulder blades
How sharp these knives
“I like your hair, but not today.”

This man's toilet or skin-bag
A dummy bobbing her head.
            She'll never talk
I want him to feel this

She was a princess again
            “It hurts, I know.”
            TO BE LOVED, TO BE LOVED, OH
            WHAT A FEELING
            TO BE LOVED
            TO BE LOVED

To reverse time, her dress
makes it hard to decide if
            I can watch clocks
Immortality is a warm syrup
this honey is beneath the tongue

That slides, Christ this metaphor must die.


Saving a Life by Vincenzo Bilof is the closest to a standard poem that I’ve seen from the author. That is not a complaint. It only verifies for me that he can work the language to fit his needs. Think Metallica and The Black Album; the band showed it could make a hit-making rock lp, that they weren’t a one-style Thrash band. Bilof is the Metallica of Poetry.

In Saving a Life, he uses traditional metaphors (“the princess would assassinate time” & “immortality is a warm syrup”), but he also weaves his propensity for stream-of-consciousness into the mix (“A dress hiked up to her shoulder blades/How sharp these knives/’I like your hair, but not today.’”). It is the ending that begs the question however. Perhaps some background here is important.

I needed two poems like asap and contacted Vincenzo for a few of his works to help me out. He obliged by actually writing some poems from the Bizarro Con, where he interrupted his busy schedule to get these two poems to you, the Servante of Darkness readers. Thus, there may be a typo here and there. I avoid changing a poet’s words in any way or form. But Bilof gave me permission to “alter” the poem as an editor would. However, this is risky territory: One poet’s typo is another poet’s master stroke. What I’m getting at is that last line of the poem: “…this honey is beneath the tongue/That slides, Christ this metaphor must die.” It can be read two ways. As is, Christ is the metaphor of the poem; with a comma after Christ, it means that it’s an exclamation (Christ, this metaphor must die!). So, rather than give you MY meaning; I’ll leave it up to you, dear readers, to decide which way works best for you.

I’d like to thank Vincenzo Bilof for submitting these works for my column this month. It adds a new dimension for us to view his words as they stream straightway from his head on a moment’s notice to your eyes.

Kim Acrylic

Biography: Kim Acrylic, from Seattle Washington is a Poet/ Recording Artist/indie Music Journalist, who dedicated her life to poetry at age 15. Since then she has worked for several online music and poetry magazines and has been published in several anthologies including Little Episode's first volume of poetry "Back In 5 Minutes" She also collaborated post-death with Andy Warhol for the New Britain Museum Of Modern Art by writing a poem inspired by his painting of Manray for the book "Visions, Voices, and verses" As of to date Kim has two CDs out "Fan Fare Melt Down" and "Techno Eyes.She continues to collaborate to this day with artists all over the world.

MY FACEBOOK PAGE LINKS: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kim-Acrylic/72624288127
MY SOFT COVER: http://www.lulu.com/shop/kim-acrylic/the-myth-behind-all-truth/paperback/product-21109838.html

The Poems:

"Breaking Bad"

Breaking and bad in your times spent in tarnished isolation 

Where did the weary imaginary time go? 

Drifting from stained black dreams to living with a thirsty hunger 

Will I be remembered? 

Forcing you to breath through tubes filled with my kisses 

Are you a slow motion demise? 

Slow and fragile I make my way to bleached brown undergrounds 

Will I find solace? 

Great love affairs call to me in my forbidden bed of nails 

Will I worship you? 

Forever is short in the life of the brittle and dying 

But are you frightened? 

So long to the wisdom that never was,the agony of my years 

Will there be an after world? 

I see now the intentions of the world through glass marble eyes 

Will there ever be Bliss?


In "Breaking Bad", Kim Acrylic uses free verse to coalesce the dualistic narrators (the "I" and "You" in the poem). It is as if the author is speaking to herself in a mirror or attributing the "you" to the third person (perhaps a former lover). By placing the second person reference in "isolation" and relocating the first person to interrogative form, "Will I be remembered?", the author directs the reader to a shift in emotions, between the dual interplay.

The poem then segues into a series of questions and associations or possibly answers, more likely, observations (as in "Forever is short in the life of the brittle and dying/But are you frightened?"). By ending the poem with a question, the "you" narrator sums up the intent of the exchanges: we have been at odds, will we always be at odds, or will we find closure (bliss)?

Kim establishes an argumentative narrative between two voices with remarkable curiosity. The observations make clever use of images (tubes, nails, marble eyes, etc.), while the questions keep the reader slightly off-balance with the abstract ponderings. This is the work of a introspective writer worth listening to.

"The End"

Rejected whispers follow their only hope through jaded winds 
Mother nature over-weight with vengeance,blame and guilt 

Controlled by the solemn forest of revolution we scurry to wail to the moons of the tide 
We shall rebuke your Armageddon to cradle the birth of the new years for gluttonous eternity. 

The time beats like a broken heart against the night's wind 

Sorrow no longer my friend or failure 
Sinking in a shriek of maddened carnival sounds 
We sing...Loud, Clear, Muted stained lullabies to break the fever on the earth. 
Dust sand blasts our marble hearts wired, witty fallen we scream for acceptance unto the afterword of our choice. 
Dissected Gods, intimidating nether-words pile 
upon our sad eyes reflecting our infancy. 
gnawing on the umbilical cord of Mary,
we drown in the vast fluids of the parted seas and placenta 
Renewing our birth vows in the hazy, freakish lights 
that we crawl crying into.


In "The End", Kim employs an erratic style that blossoms (nay, crescendos) into a mini-ode. She personifies "whispers" and "winds" and imbues nature with "vengeance, blame and guilt". This initial couplet sets up the reader to expect a traditional poem that could have been written during the English Renaissance. But that second couplet introduces the narrator twice, first as "we" then "We", small letter to capital so when the reader sees the next capital, his attention is drawn to "Armageddon". Here the poem breaks from the couplets and a single line returns us to a personified "time" with a "broken heart". There is foreshadowing at work here, reminiscent of TS Eliot in "The Second Coming", where "rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born". Same tone, same rhythm. 

The final stanza now forms an ode in structure, though shortened in length. The first three lines beginning with "Sorrow" utilize alliteration with sex "s" words, echoing a slithering or hissing undertone to the poem at this point. The personified "nature" is freed from its "fever" as "w" words now join in the alliterative progression, strengthening the intensification of the poem's development of the "armageddon" theme. "Dissected Gods", or clashing religions, "gnaw" on the "umbilical cord of Mary"; the birth of Christ and Man are joined by the pronoun "we" (that was foreshadowed earlier in the poem. And nature (earth and sea) now becomes the broken water of birth and the placenta, and "we" the child "cry" as we are brought forth into the world of division. And here we see how the TS Eliot rhythm has totally emerged (the birth in Kim' poem mirroring the approaching "birth" of The Second Coming.

Kim Acrylic paints a beautiful "ode-like" poem to the conflict of religions. Even as each religion seeks the betterment of Mankind and preaches goodness, still, when these religions meet, there is always conflict and friction awaiting. Birth itself can be beautiful, but is it still so when it is Christ and the Anti-Christ being born? A question best put to the "dissected gods." 


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Click here to purchase.

Michael Madsen

Re: His Poetry compilation:

This is the only authorized, comprehensive compilation of Michael Madsen's poetry available anywhere. A "must have" for any Madsen fan!

He's a throw-back to the true spirit of the Beats...An Anachronistic Beat.

Madsen is a grand storyteller as you follow him through his wild times at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood to the rain-soaked streets of Luxembourg to the historic western film locations in Durango, Mexico where John Wayne's ranch used to be, to a near-death experience in Bucharest.

However, this book is not all about the "road to excess." His family, his friends, his pets, and those personal, evanescent moments as he has observed and recorded them, are all captured in this 10 Year Anniversary Edition. He also possesses a shrewd sense of humor.

A veritable feast for the eyes, "The Complete Poetic Works of Michael Madsen," offers many rare photographs-- there is the original flyer from the Steppenwolf Theatre where Madsen began his acting career included in this book, along with over 50 other personal photos on and off the set.

Rexroth, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Bukowski would all agree that "those poets of immensity" have got nothing on Michael Madsen.

The Poems:


Sometimes, towards home, I unfasten my seatbelt before the last mile to the finish
And I always think of Dale Earnhardt who apparently did the same thing on the last lap
Of the Daytona 500, which they say, is the reason he was killed
When his mighty machine hit the wall,
And that rolling thunder that was Dale,
Went quiet.

One last mile to home, to the front gate. To my sons and my wife, and the dogs... the lizard.
The turtles. The birds and ants in the pantry. Dead rats in the garage and baby squirrels Drowned In the pool.
Old pictures on the table for Ancestery.com and the message light blinking on the phone.
Hell Ride Gent bike in the driveway and my big blue Ford carried me back once again
Where I write this now and back to thinking about so many things
That my head might explode
Like an Atomic weapon.

I thought about driving a race car for a living when I was in the strength of my youth,
But now it’s just a goofy idea, but there once was a brave man who did it,
Did it better than anyone.
His name was Dale.
And ever since that fateful afternoon, when he unhooked at over 200 mph
On his way to wherever he was meant to go.
I have never done it myself on my to whatever is left of my life
Without thinking of him

 M.M. June 2011


Dale by Michael Madsen is a self-reflective prose poem written in a narrative style but wrought with sub-text and underlying meaning. Dale Earnhardt, the Dale of the title, represents death, of course, on a surface level. For Madsen, however, it represents life, a life unfulfilled yet a full life. Madsen heads home to a family, to a house inhabited by things and creatures familiar to him as part of his home, but on the last part of his drive home, he unbuckles his seat belt (the same act Dale performed ritually as he ended a race on the final mile, the act that many say killed him) and faces his mortality, for how many times did Dale perform this act and NOT die—every time but the last.

Thus Madsen counts his blessings each time he reaches home by unhooking his safety belt. He says, “I have never done it myself on my to whatever is left of my life/Without thinking of him”. In context, this line follows “I thought about driving a race car for a living when I was in the strength of my youth,/But now it’s just a goofy idea, but there once was a brave man who did it”. Dale did it. And Madsen does it symbolically each time he arrives home for the memory of that “goofy idea,” that unlived life, that direction he did not choose to go.

But the unhooking of the seat belt is the great equalizer, for therein that symbolic act lies the path to death, but not always. Sometimes we reach home, “to whatever is left of my life”. Dale got home too, but once, Madsen reminds himself on that final stretch toward our final resting place, be it a desk where he writes or the grave and its rites.

This is the language of poetry, the common voice where meaning can unite life and death in the same thought. It is this voice that speaks to us from behind the words that are written. Michael Madsen understands this. When we hear that voice, we, too, understand.

Christmas by Michael Madsen

I worked at a Christmas tree lot sometime in the early '70s.
The exact year I don't remember, and who really gives a shit.
Anyway, my boss was a real prick who cashed in on X-mas every year
and could care less about my skinny, freezing ass-
"Smile," he said, "You got to smile more."
Something I'd heard before and since many times;
I guess people like me better smiling
which is why I don't very much.

"If you wanna sell those trees you gotta look happy...
make people like you."

All I really wanted to do was smash him in the face...
But I stood. And I froze. And I walked. And I Sold. And I loaded
while he sat in his heated trailer like King Tut smelling his own farts
I imagined.
My mother was working two jobs.
It was Christmas Eve.
We didn't have a tree.
So later that night, after all the station wagons had loaded
with their half-sucked lollipops stuck on the inside of their back windows
and driven away and the lights were out in the city
I went back to the lot, climbed over the back fence and
stole a tree.

I dragged it down the alleyway all the way back to our place
and put it on the back porch of the 1st floor of the shitty
two flat we were soon to leave from.

It was snowing outside and I looked at that tree leaning there
alone and thought about my mother and sister.
I thought about my boss, the farting, king prick,
and my father missing another Christmas with us
and my mother not having any money and my sister with her Marilyn Monroe posters
on her wall and how happy I was for ripping off that tree...
and I smiled...


Using the poetic language of hidden meaning, Michael Madsen gives us Christmas, a poem that on the surface be appear to be about the festive holiday, but as we’ve seen in Dale, his narrative voice describes more than what it shows. In the poem, Madsen reminisces about his youth, of one particular Christmas Eve when he worked on a lot selling trees to last minute shoppers. To follow the main conceit, we must understand the merging of elements (in Dale, it was life and death); here it is hate and love.

Hate is easy to see. It is represented in his boss’s absence of care for the lad: “…my boss was a real prick who cashed in on X-mas every year/and could care less about my skinny, freezing ass-“. He is described as King Tut smelling his own farts in the confined space where he keeps office, while the young narrator “Stood. Froze. Walked. And Sold.” His boss insists that he smile, a simple act that Madsen admits he is adverse to do: “I guess people like me better smiling/which is why I don't very much.” It is this “smile” that represents “love”, albeit sardonically.

Even the buyers of the Christmas trees are spoken of with sarcastic intents as Madsen describes these families that come shopping as empty cars and half-eaten candy: “…after all the station wagons had loaded/with their half-sucked lollipops stuck on the inside of their back windows”. Notice there are no people here, just an image of the wagons with lollipops stuck on the glass. Perfect symbolism that not only captures the sarcasm of the narrator but supplies us with a creepy image of a faceless clientele, as absent as the boss.

Then the sardonic tone takes shape as the young vendor steals a Christmas to take home. It is not a message of the holidays; it is a revolution. For Madsen even describes his home as “shitty”, an absent father (echoing the absent boss and absent clients). The tree is not about making it a better holiday. It is about expressing his hate for all the phoniness he must endure to make a few bucks. It is this expression that merits a real “smile” from our narrator whose joy comes from “ripping off the tree”, not from any ho-ho-ho shit.

Here Michael Madsen shows us again his talent for merging opposites in a narrative voice that hides subtle meanings. He loves his family enough to steal them a tree, but he does so under the hate that the tree represents for him. That final smile may as well be a sneer. You can almost hear the words, “Merry Christmas, you prick. I've got your smile right here.”  


Nico Vega is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 2005 by Mike Peña, named after his mother. The band consists of lead singer Aja Volkman, guitarist Rich Koehler, drummer Dan Epand, and bassist Jamila Weaver.

The Poem:

Music by Nico Vega
Lyrics by Aja Volkman

Stand tall for the beast of America.
Lay down like a naked dead body,
keep it real for the people workin' overtime,
they can't stay living off the government dime.
Stand tall for the people of America.
Stand tall for the man next door, cuz
we are free in the land of America,
we aren't goin' down like this. Come on Now!
Come on People
Stand tall for the beast of America.
Lay down like a naked dead body,
keep it real for the people workin' overtime,
they can't stay living off the governments dime.
Stand tall for the people of America.
Stand tall for the man next door, cuz
we are free in the land of America,
we aren't goin' down like this. Come on now!
C'mon people!
I will be right to you,
I will be right to you,
I will be right to you, and together we can stand up to the beast.
You see...Suppression is a mother f*cking prison
So I hand you the key to your cell,
You've got to love you neighbor, love your neighbor.
And let your neighbor, love you back.
Come on now!
Stand tall for the beast of America.
Lay down like a naked dead body,
keep it real for the people workin' overtime,
they can't stay living off the governments dime.
Stand tall for the people of America.
Stand tall for the man next door,
Cause we are free in the land of America,
we aint goin' down like this. Come on now!


There is much controversy over the lyrics to this song, which is probably why I selected it for today's song/poem analysis. Some see it as an anthem against welfare, while others see it as a support for welfare. It can be read either way. But we are here to look at the poetry, not the politics. Beast, as a poem, interests us here and now.

The poem utilizes opposing images to paint its meaning. One must not omit any image, lest we see only what you want to see, thus the politics of understanding. I can tell you right off the words do not express a side in the debate of government social services. From the get-go, the lyricist Aja Volkman exhorts the listener to "Stand tall for the beast of America". The contradiction here is that we are asked to support a "beast", an uncivil creature. That's tantamount to saying to stand up so the bear who is attacking you. This makes sense by the second line where we are further instructed to "Lay down like a naked dead body"; this is something we are told to do if we are attacked by a bear-like beast, to lay still and pretend you're dead. Given that the beast is America, how does one do this?

Well, later, there is more clarification. We are told that we are not "going down like this". So, ironically, we are being told not to lay down, but to stand up to the beast, to fight for one's self and one's neighbors, for the "people working overtime" because the government subsidies are not sufficient to support one's family. Towards the end of the poem, Aja finally speaks the words behind the meaning of the "beast": "I will be right to you, and together we can stand up to the beast./You see...Suppression is a mother fucking prison". So, if we do choose to lay down like a dead body, we are imprisoning ourselves; Aja offers us the key to our "cells", and these words to the poem are the key. 

In essence, the song/poem is an anthem, an exhortation to fight for one's freedom, not just in tyrannical lands, but also in places where freedom is supposed to exist but doesn't, not unlike America. 

Listen to the song here:


Thank you, readers, for visiting our poetry column once again. If you have some poetry you'd like to submit for critique in the coming months, send them to eslprog@aol.com. I look forward to reading them. Till next month, have a joyous Thanksgiving and eat till you burst. You've earned it.