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9Robert Walker

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I. The Man said no angst tonight.

I only know what I know.
How can there not be?
I am broken.
I am broken.
I am broken.
There is no repair.
No time for nurses to care
more than they do.
They are so grim beneath a smile,
behind their faces,
grim like a boiled skull.
They hide it well.
Swell, most days.

Whom do you share that with?
Who? Unbroken?

I go home with improved senses-supersenses.
How I can hear!
My neighbors are talking behind closed doors.
“That poor bastard.”
“ He is broken like a kids doll,
but he can’t be fixed.”
“ How do we approach him?”
“What do we say?”
They break down.
Their sorrow is abstract.
In their tears is irony.

Back to angst.
Back to her face in her hands.
Back to where she wishes it hadn’t happened.
Back to Genie’s who snap their fingers,
nod their heads,
Blink twice like it never happened.

(I’ll give you a million dollars to catch an unused genie for me.)

I have super-vision now.

There are three kinds of people at supermarkets.

The man who sees you from across the store who does everything in his power to avoid eye-contact. Quick getaways.

The man who is Curious George and gives you a cursory glance. His eyes stick in your back as he passes.

The man who knows. Oh! Monty Hall, give me those who know, behind door number three.
Those who know the loss of limb
loss of hair
loss of control
loss of recognition
Give me those.
I will speak with them until my milk goes warm,
until my cottage cheese curdles,
until they turn the lights out.

I lied. There are women.
Women who touch my shoulder while I wheel down an aisle.
A touch that says, “I know, I gave birth, I have lost, I can help…
Make it better.
All I can do is bite my lip to keep from crying.

No angst, you say.

People die every day.
At the funeral home, the living wonder.
They try to find the least scrap of humanity in the dead,
and make it a meal, a buffet where all can gorge.
They want to wish the dead to Heaven,
wish them out of Hell.
There is nothing so final as a gravedigger.


The Man said no angels.

Let me tell you, because I cannot show you.
There is never more clarity than when you are about to die.

I heard their wings flap at Mose’s Lake, at mile marker 161.8
on Interstate 90.
They comforted me there amid dying screams,
amid pools of intermingled blood and chaos and pain all around.

They are real.
They are real.
They are real.

Let me show you angels that you can see.
They are the ones who change bloody bandages,
who wipe your forehead with cool water,
who clean you up when you shit yourself,
who change your sheets with all tenderness,
who guide your family and friends deftly at your bedside,
who understands your pain.
They are the ones you must never forget.

There are more.
They are little ones who see me.
They are little boys and girls.
They are innocent.
Curious, they are.
A tug on mama’s skirt,
or a pull on daddy’s shirt.
Always while they look at where my leg used to be.
(It could be your hairless head,
or a black patch over your eye,
or a seeing- eye dog sitting next to you.)
They want to know.
And their parents who are no longer innocent,
try hard to make the little ones look away.
Horseshit, I say.

Let them come.
Let all of them come who will.
Let me tell them in a kindhearted way.
Let me make their day.
Let me, permit me, please, to help you
keep their innocence, I pray.


The Man said no demons.

Well, there are.
What to make of an out-of-control car?
At one o’clock in the morning, who can see a human
rolling his truck at 110 miles-per-hour?
Who can hear beer cans and bottles bounce,
Escape from a doomsday truck?
When it stops rolling in front of me,
who can see smoke and steam and screams
like unto the deepest pit of Hell?

The reason you never see demons is when that kind of death comes,
demons hitch a ride to other places,
Other people,
And they find their own way to torment more.
Sneaky little bastards they are.
I hate them.
I hate them.
I hate them.
I swear to God, I hate them.


The Man said no death.

Well, sorry.
It’s coming.
It’s coming and I can’t stop it.


There is just too much of it around to ignore.
If you are lucky enough to survive ‘near death’,
it changes you.
it always forevermore whispers in your ear.

I can hear.
I can hear it now.
I can hear it with my supersenses.

You wonder when you go,
Will you feel the gravediggers spade,
Whether you will smother in-ground,
Will you be trapped, claustrophobic?

Maybe a mistake has been made,
they buried you alive.

Will you feel the fire,
heat of cremation?

You wonder about, no, worry that you might go to Hell,
(no matter how religious you are.)

You wonder if there really is a Heaven.
That’s the Hell of it.
No matter what you believe,
you can’t condition or chant yourself against death.

The clock is evil. I say break them all.

There is Hell on Earth.
I’ve seen it.
I’ve felt it.

There is Hell in Hell.
I’ve heard it.

There is Hell in Heaven
For those who don’t belong.

Related Items


The following comments are for "Taste of Fire"
by williamhill

Remember, judge these by how well they followed the rules. The theme was "From Hell". Rules, needs to be a loger poem (not homer long, just not short), not too much angst, avoid the "hell" cliches that's basically it. All votes below a 5 will be deleted. Voting will be closed at 9pm, Monday Sept 5th (1 week).

( Posted by: Chrispian [Admin] On: August 29, 2005 )

Can I go even farther, and also judge the poems on how well they're written?


( Posted by: Viper9 [Member] On: August 29, 2005 )

re: well written
Wow, novel concept! Please do! ;)

( Posted by: Chrispian [Admin] On: August 30, 2005 )

I wasn't sure about this at the beginning; a shaky start, I think. 'I am broken' immediately makes me thing 'angst!', which is unfortunate, as it isn't really representative of the rest of the poem.

I'm not sure whether this is based on a real accident; I think you might have made mention of a missing leg before (though I haven't read all your work). Whether fiction of fact, it's an interesting take on Hell.
This poem, and the first stanza especially, remindsd me of T.S Eliot, particularly the lines

'There is no repair.
No time for nurses to care
More than they do.
They are so grim beneath a smile,
behind their faces,
grim like a boiled skull.'

This isn't a bad thing.

( Posted by: MacLaren [Member] On: August 30, 2005 )

Autobiographical Slant

First of all, excellent poem. I like the way you layered an autobiographical slant into the piece and the sense of authenticity that it lends everything else.

Your method of validating cliche while maintaining originality is certainly something I would like to say was an idea that I had come up with and the fact that you seem to say that for you Hell is exactly all of those things that would seems cliche to a writer and tough shit on anyone who might think differently.

You may not have Andy's eloquence in this Write Off, but the poem is just as original and is deft, true and startling in it's own right.

Preach on Brother Hill, Preach on.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: August 30, 2005 )

For Eternity and Eternity! No sparing of pain whatsoever!

Loved your poem...

( Posted by: JEANNIE45 [Member] On: August 31, 2005 )

Sorry! Hell
Sorry about that, I meant to title it Hell!

( Posted by: JEANNIE45 [Member] On: August 31, 2005 )

write off- Williamhill
Hey Charlie,
Like I just wrote to Andy, I am really having the toughest time making a decision here. I read both pieces days ago and for the life of me can't make up my mind! Both pieces are very original and both quite good. I am sure tossing a coin would not be the right thing to do(kidding of course). Hope to make my decision soon.

Nae ;0)

( Posted by: nae411 [Member] On: September 2, 2005 )

Me an' Andy
Or is it Andy an' me? I can't remember. Comment at will, when you will,as you have Quill to pen with, Nay, I say, soon, before the moon is full with sway. Nae, I hope you take your voting powers seriously. Someone HAS to win. Someone HAS to lose. Thatt's why they call it a Write-off, I think. I hate to lose at anything, Andy doesn't give a rip. We have a Philly Cheesesteak and a Pastrami and rye riding on this think. It is the gravest of circumstances,I tell you. Others are counting on us. If I lose, my wife and children will leave me. I can't even begin to tell you what will happen with Andy. (I heard though, that he will be on The Nightly News with Brian Williams, in the segment,"In their own words." I just hope he holds up under the pressure.)

Take your time, make it meaningful, use Right Guard. Never let them see you sweat.


( Posted by: williamhill [Member] On: September 3, 2005 )

What I stand to lose or can't stand to lose
There is a small man (really, almost an Oompa Loompa) following me around with a blow-torch and a pair of pliers. He keeps mumbling something about "Retribution. Righteous retribution," and reminding me about my quarterly income taxes. Which, in fact, I don't actually owe. Needless to say, I'm a bit worried about this little bas**rd.

I didn't think he had anything to do with the Write Off, but I caught him whispering something into his cell phone about "Charlie's piece" and "really enjoying the self-referential irony."

Tiny orange creep.

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: September 3, 2005 )

Write off
I am sorry but I could not rate one piece over the other. I reread them both many times and they were both excellent. I felt if I gave one a nod over the other it would not be for the worth of the writing but out of personal preference. I really believe you both deserve a '10' so that is what you got.

Best to you both.

( Posted by: nae411 [Member] On: September 4, 2005 )

The voice
This is beautiful, and I love it. It's very strong, very powerful--feels a touch stream-of-conciousness even. It's so different from what I'm used to hearing from you though, even in your darker pieces the tone feels more...detached. I think you might have pulled yourself too deep into this one (too deep for you, not for us). The repitition is nice. For the sake of voting, though, I think I'm going to have to give Andy the nod-- the rhythm feels cleaner and the assonance lends it something.

You're on to something very deep here. Keep writing it.

( Posted by: shefallssoftly [Member] On: September 4, 2005 )

And the winner is:
First off, great job to both writers. It looks like you both had fun with the theme and ended up with two excellent poems. The result of which was a very close race with Andy coming out ahead by a hair! Great job Andy, and congrats on bringing home the trophy! Kudos to both of you for a great match.


( Posted by: Chrispian [Admin] On: September 6, 2005 )

I haven't written poetry in a long time, (what is time to a 19 year old?) but after reading this decided to get back into it. Some day I hope to write at this level, incredible stuff.


( Posted by: DCHXIII [Member] On: October 26, 2005 )

drooling sycophants
::sigh:: delusions of writing grandeur followed by the endless drool of all the usual sycophant fools.
I am not impressed nor moved by this trite example of poor writing.

( Posted by: JesusBlows [Member] On: October 26, 2005 )

JesusBlows... how very, very quaint. Stupid. Immature. Yet quaint.
[Rant alert. Avoid this comment if you have no stomach for me going off on somebody mostly because I'm in a pissy mood and they got into my head space today]

How could anybody on our dear Internet writing site know what a crappy month I've had? How insanely busy and racked with both trivial and deeply important time-sinks these weeks have been? How much personal stress I've been under? How much sleep I've lost due to worry about co-workers and work itself?

Not that anyone asked -- nor did I plan to say anything. But all of you dear folk who take the time to share your creativity and editorial thoughts in depth with me and with each other have certainly earned a level of respect and restraint that keeps me silent when I would otherwise speak ill. In times of stress, I shut up. Which is why I have been less heard at Lit these past 4-6 weeks or so.

Who could have know this? Certainly not Mr./Mrs./Ms./Rev./Dr. JesusBlows.

But, not knowing, he/she/it has tweaked me from my irritable cocoon. So, JesusBlows...

Yours is, as far as I'm concerned, the dumbest handle I've encountered on this or any other site. What does it signify except a rejection of something that's important to many other people? Does it say anything about your person? Nope. Anything about your beliefs? No. Just a juvenile fling of mud at a major belief system that has lasted 2,000 years, supported many of the greatest cultures in the world and brought comfort -- and tragedy -- to billions of people.

And yet, our Dear JesusBlows is so wise, so utterly, utterly beyond and above it all can negate a third of the world's monotheistic believers with the churlish, prepubescent monosyllable, "blows." Super.

Sir/Madame Blows left me a neat little comment on my poem, calling it a "dull example of poor writing." But then rated it a "10." I'm confused. Both by a short comment that was not backed up by any actual critique, and then by a rating of 10 on top of that. What the heck is that all about?

But, I thought... No big deal. I don't really give a rat's ass what anybody says about my poetry. It's poetry. I write it to write it. If somebody reads it and likes it, great. If somebody reads it and doesn't like it... Well, frankly, that's almost as good. 'Cause at least it got into their head.

But then I checked out Blows' comment on Charlie's piece here. And while I take more umbrage at these comments leveled at Charlie's piece -- I am always more sensitive to insults levied at friends -- what REALLY pisses me off is the insult to the readers and commentors.

First of all, Blows -- put up or shut up. WilliamHill is, in my opinion, one of the top poets on this site. And one of the best writers I've met onLine or onDirt. Period. The man's got game. Real heart, real balls, real words. Until you show me you got any of the above, your words are but air and I treat them as the barking of a rabid sea lion.

Next... on to the drooling sycophants and fools. Do you have any idea how few people read and write poetry in today's world? How few people discuss it? And how few do so in an open forum? Well, of those people, you've just pissed off some of the best. So now where do you plan to go for your fuel and food and camraderie? I don't know, but go there.

So... If you feel like, browse through my comments. You'll find that I am uniformly and 100% civilized and measured in my responses, both to criticism and bad behavior. I don't get upset.

You've done the trick. Good job, Blows. A combination of "just the right time" and calling my friends names and providing no cred for your cheesy, goofy, silly, childish, poking just yanked me the wrong way.

So you win the "Somebody Finally Pissed Andy Off" Award. Hasn't happened in years. If you get off on that kind of stuff, you win the kewpie doll.

To my fellow readers/commentors/writers here at Lit, I appologize for my brief forray into poor behavior. It will, I hope, not be repeated in the near future. I hope to get some sleep soon, finish my big project at work, eat some dark greens and floss more regularly.

To Charlie... when are we going to do a Round Three Rematch? And might I suggest a 3-way with JesusBlows? I, for one, am itching to see if he/she/it can put his/her/its pen where his/her/its comments are...

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: October 27, 2005 )

Hell is for everyone
This is the kind of poem that's very hard for me to critique with anything like true, dispassionate clarity. The narrative that inhabits it -- and it doesn't matter if it's autobiographical or not, because it's true as hell, for many and many a person, whether or not it happened to the poet or not -- is so completely realized, and so passionately and granularly presented, that to write any criticism seems, to me, boorish.

But I know that Charlie lies/accepts/requests criticism. And I promised him some. But the reason it's taken so long is that I wanted to give this piece time to sit. To rest in my head. To cool, as it were. It's still hard for me, because it is as meaningful to me on a personal level as it is to the narrator.

Someone -- a family member -- very near to me, but not someone I grew up with, was disabled and spent more than half his adult life in a combination of beds, wheelchairs and VA hospitals. When I first met him... I was in the supermarket group 1 or 2 from above. Don't know why; lack of training or conditioning? Not knowing the ettiquette for conversation with someone who suffers from severe aphasia and has a hard time getting out sentences? Simple fear of illness and brokenness? All of the above, I suspect. I was young(er), and did my best not to be an ass. But I suspect, looking back, that I was.

Over time, as I came to know him, across more than 20 years, I think I moved into category 3. But I never became an angel, as Charlie describes them. I knew the angels in his life. Some were in his family, some were friends, some worked at various jobs where being an angel is optional. As is being a demon. There are plenty of those in the places where we most need angels.

When I read this poem... I wonder about my friend's final years. About his fully-functioning, very smart, very funny mind... trapped in a physical shell that couldn't move itself very much. Unable to speak, except haltingly. Slowly. Frustratingly.

I'm sure he was often in a great deal of pain. He rarely complained. I'm sure he was always uncomfortable. Again... rarely a mumur of discontent. I know people who "have everything" who bitch more in a week about the treatment their BMW's got at the shop than he ever did about the way life treated him.

He was an artist (who continued to paint, even after he was paralyzed on his favored side), had been a soldier and healthcare worker, was a husband and father.

He died about a year-and-a-half ago from complications, we think, related to pneumonia. It's harder to tell when someone's getting sick when they can't tell you about it. And it's harder to treat, when they're already on a buffet of other meds. And people who aren't in the kind of shape he was die from pneumonia, too. That's just one of the ways we get took, I guess.

Was he in hell? During his final years? We tried -- some of us, the angels among his folk, more than others -- to help him, to keep him involved, to get him to do things with us. I always seemed to be able to make him laugh. Regardless of his aphasia, his laugh was big and loud and wonderful. So I did that. Made him laugh.

[I wonder... will they let me tell jokes in hell? Or will that be the punishment for a great many people who often wish, here on earth, that I'd just friggin' shut (the hell) up right now?]

I don't know if he was any luckier or unluckier than anyone else. I know that there are things about him I'll never know about his life before he went into the hospital. About problems he may have had that, frankly, being in a wheelchair and under 24/7 supervision get you out of the way of. I'm not saying I would pick his fate for anyone. I'm just saying I don't know...

So... here's my critique for Charlie's poem:

There is, I think (God... I hope), Heaven in Hell for those who can still laugh.

That's all I got for you, my friend. I'll find some nits to pick on a piece that doesn't break my heart to read.

( Posted by: andyhavens [Member] On: December 9, 2005 )

Andy & Blows
I have been away from my computer for awhile. I am glad to see so many old and new {faces}. It will be fun to contribute to this community again. It is difficult to measure up sometimes with this crowd. Anyway.....

Blows, I could tell you that you know nothing about poetry or writing, but I won't do that. You may be the one who wrote " the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics." And so I guess I can say that criticism is subjective at its core. In your case, I don't know because you did not elaborate. But, I do know a little about this piece I wrote above, and since you seemed insistant on using Jesus name in the perjorative, I thought I might enlighten you on its meaning. And get this, Blows, you almost got what the work was truly about. While on the surface it was about Hell(the kinds of Hell), it truly, truly, was all about Grace. You can look up the definition of grace in a dictionary or a lexicon if you want but I can say this much about the word, there is no definition that does it justice in any language known to mankind. Why? Because it is a Godly word, it is an angelic term, it is a Heavenly term without borders. I do not know how to explain its meaning except to say,on the seemingly worst day of my life, on a day in which I nearly died, grace was given to me in incalculable quantities. I can assure you that I did nothing to deserve it and still scratch my head nearly three years later as to why God chose to shine on me. I am in awe yet. As a bookbinder weaves gold filigree into his most precious book, God has so chosen me to weave His grace into my deepest being. Yes, you are right, Jesus blows his grace into me, and I am good with it.

Andy,thanks for your kindness and understanding. Some days, it's just too hard to be kind to these folks. Don't mistake me, I ain't turnin' over a new leaf or nothin'. New leaves too soon turn to dirt. Trying to explain near-death experiences to friends, family, and others is difficult at best. Hell, I don't even understand it all. As to your family member who suffered, he was apportioned grace as well. I know you know this. But there is a passel of other folks like Blows who don't. There are also a lot of other writers/ non writers here who don't understand. The really cool thing is, I am free and can write what I want, when I want, and like you, I really don't give a crap if someone doesn't like my work, I hope it gets in their head like Morse Code, Da, Da, Da, and all that. And if somebody wants to get a rise out of me, so be it. Carpe diem, I think. And yes, I am ready to do another Write-off if Crowe and you are, glutton that I am. I'll holler at you in a day or two. Have the best Christmas, you and yours.


( Posted by: williamhill [Member] On: December 21, 2005 )

I gave this top score as well, as it is totally different than Andy's piece, but as his did this hit all the buttons in me, made me think deeply. Your version has more structure to it, as in "there are rules that must be followed even where 'you're' going" The clock IS evil...I like that, we are controlled so much by that evil invention called TIME.

Great job.

( Posted by: BWOz [Member] On: August 12, 2006 )

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