Associated Press

An Idaho elementary school
sponsored a time capsule project
in which students, faculty
and denizens of the community
were asked to submit
their favorite personal possessions
valued under $20
which could fit inside a pill bottle
for burial in the town park.
Not one person produced an item.

"The experiment was a success,"
declared principal David Vargas.
"If people aren't willing to sacrifice now
then nothing is destined to change in the future."

No one else was available for comment.


Mal de Ojo

The badlander plods on
in search of castles crumbling
and a market for spare kidneys.
He's marching off demerits
assigned by decades gone.
There will be a line to urinate
on his grave a mile long.
"I'm all right with that," he says.
The dust forgets to answer.

Steel against his thigh
strikes a nerve within his spine.
He stuck himself in crazy
and flushed out the infection.
They want to see the proof;
he's not practiced, nor a preacher.
Inamorata, lovesick, waits atop a tower.


Rambos We Are Not

Sometimes you need advice
through liquored telephones
from the kid you built forts with in the woods
with plastic rifles slung over shoulders
and cap guns shoved into pants
as not much has changed
since puberty struck
other than death's proximity
and vaginal complications.


A Fear Jackie's Ready To Face

She's got real
fucking potential
to break it off in your ass
but you'll still be you in the morning
that way
and if you happen to shoot a load
at the elephant in the room
you might wake up
to a goddess
every morning
for the rest of your allotted sunrises.


'Merican Sniper: A Movie Review

Let me start by clarifying my word selection. 'American Sniper' is not a film; it's a movie. The shame of it is that Chris Kyle deserved the latter. I don't blame Bradley Cooper as his performance was one of the strong points present in the project, though Clint Eastwood may have some explaining to do. One does not embark upon such a heavy endeavor without being sure that all bases are covered tastefully. It wasn't a complete abortion, but I expected much more. Before you continue reading allow me to warn you of the spoilers present in my assessment. I do not care about ruining any surprises for you. If you don't already know the ending then you haven't read the book, don't watch the news, and probably should stay home to masturbate to screenshots from a Clive Owen shoot-'em-up. 'American Sniper' was not supposed to be an action flick. It was supposed to honor a fallen hero--which brings me to another point. I'm not going to argue the pros and cons of any war we've sent men and women to recently. Any person who puts his life on the line so his buddies can make it home in one piece is a hero. Those in combat understand that mentality. When bullets are flying, it ain't about God, Country, Family. It's about the terrified bastard next to you in the foxhole with piss-soaked pants and not enough ammunition remaining.

There were some blatantly cheesy foul balls. The fact that a real infant could not be located for the family scene is appalling. That rigid piece of rubber used to represent a human child was about as realistic as one of those 1990s dolls that shit and pissed after some snot-nosed brat fed it fake food. Why would anyone want that thing anyway? Little girls are weird, which makes sense since they grow to be crazy women. Also, the 21-gun salute during the SEAL funeral was lackluster. While I appreciated the M14 being used for the tradition, the fact that the rifle closest to the camera did not actually fire once was too obvious for me to forgive. Shooting blanks is not that dangerous. Just ask someone who's had a vasectomy. The massive, Mummy-esque sandstorm which conveniently conjures itself during the final battle scene made me cringe with vicarious embarrassment, right down to the desperate hand-grabbing rescue of Chief Kyle as he ran to catch up to a briskly departing vehicle. I did appreciate the symbolism of the pocket Bible and bolt-action rifle being left behind in the dust, however. Chris was done hunting his demons--in this case the elusive enemy sniper who'd taken countless lives, American and otherwise. Therein lies another problematic sliver of the movie. The masked sharpshooter (who happens to be an Olympic marksmanship champion from Syria) scurries out of his bachelor pad to leap from rooftop to rooftop like a half-ninja version of Aladdin from the Sega Genesis days. Is that supposed to be believable? Even my girlfriend called bullshit on that one, and she's never shot a high-power sniper rifle, let alone pranced around with one after receiving a phone call as to the whereabouts of an American with a $180,000 bounty on his head. Speaking of head, allow me to back up. Since when would a redneck come home from a rodeo to find his girl having her back blown out by another goat-roping gentleman, only to kick him out politely sans ass-whooping? Since never. That's when. He tells her to pack her shit and leave, cracks a beer, and brainstorms with his asshole buddy on what is presumably the Meaning of Life (in Texas, where everything's allegedly bigger). I've seen 'Cops'. That's not how that story ends. There are at least 17 stitches involved and a few poorly-worded accusations to follow up said fisticuffs. I could go on ripping this movie a new sphincter, but I feel my point's been made. I admire the man, appreciate his sacrifice, and hoped for something better.

Here's the good part:  They didn't show him getting killed. I feel that added a level of respect for the man which may have been desecrated by the corny one-liners Clint must have chuckled at from the director's chair. The date is shown during that final scene so even those who went blindly into the theater know that something's about to "pop off". The creeper vibe of the murderous Marine is evident. The face Mrs. Kyle makes while seeing her husband off in the doorway alludes to our protagonist's fate. And then the portion that moved me commences. The file footage from the funeral procession and memorial service brought me back to the reality that I'd sat in that chair to see. This was not a man with a .308, a Hollywood hard-on, and Zach Galifawhateverthefuck's number in his cell phone. This was a real-life hero who died in the line of helping a brother in distress, though the soil was not from a foreign battlefield. PTSD is a very real issue that our society does not fully acknowledge, though I fear that in decades to come we will hear comparisons made to those who went to 'Nam and came back as shells of their prior selves. Bradley Cooper, for all his hungover tomfoolery, nailed this transformation.

Short version:  Read the book. Watch 'The Hurt Locker' instead.


Half-mast in Hanoi

He'd been living off the dividends
for decades in the desert.
He'd been separating fools
from their money
and their lives.
He'd been praying late at night
for redemption like Jane Fonda
cackling into coughing fits
uncured by arid air.

They found him in his cabin--
allocated isolation.
No one wanted organs
despite his donor status.
The burial was brief
fifth-rate gods in trite attendance.

Smoking lost its cool this week.
The Marlboro Man is dead.


A Cunning Conifer

Driving south toward Bear Mountain
I rip my focus from the road
and spy across the Hudson
for long enough to spot the giant pine
standing like a sentinel
in my father's front lawn.
I can see it because it's winter
and the leaves of deciduous trees
that would normally block my view
are dead and fallen.
I can see it because for the first time
in thirty years I'm actively searching.

It hinders sunlight from hitting the ground
so grass has never grown under its girth.
Branches entwine the power lines.
My father's taken a saw to lower limbs
repeatedly over the years
but a tree doesn't bleed out
quite like the rest of us.

He confessed to me a few years back
that he once tried donating it
to Rockefeller Center
sealing its fate with harvest, trailer transport
and hundreds of feet of lighting
over dozens of thousands of tourists.
The rascal in me would tell you
that they sent a helicopter
to examine the prospective offering
but satellite photos sufficed.
They told him it didn't fit their criteria.
The rejection curtailed his desired free removal.
My father, ever frugal, succumbed to Nature's victory.

I'm in the opposite lane
when my eyes return to pavement.
No cars are there to hit me.
I slowly coax the steering wheel
gliding back to my quiet half
and hope the old man's home.


A List of Beers I'll Never Drink

The party's makeshift ashtray bottle;
A roofied brew meant for you;
The last one in your refrigerator;
Chewable stouts darker than our pasts combined;
The one I cracked when this seemed like a good idea;
The rest of the one I threw at her living room wall;
The ones you owe me;
Anything with a widget at the bottom;
Anything with too much head (as such a thing exists);
Anything to celebrate a kid on the way inside someone I still love;
And Coors Light.


Caramelized Curmudgeon

Then there are the times
washing dishes two days later
when you'll need some extra muscles
to scrub the frying pan.
The onions stuck, you didn't see
since you lost track of minutes
laughing in the kitchen
while you shared a gin-and-tonic.

Dylan bawled nasally
from speakers gone ignored
plowing through his verses
born on Greyhound stubs.
You talk of travel playfully
planning spring adventures
though you've reached your destination--
The proof is in that pan.


Why I Believe in Cyberbullying

I attended an inner city high school, or whatever the dulled equivalent of that would be in the clipped tongue of today's paranoid lexicon. There was ethnic diversity. There were social imbalances. A caste system existed that even the faculty perpetuated to some degree. I was thrown into the Honors classes and took Advanced Placement courses that did little to ready me for college. Rather, the latter made me believe that I was a semester ahead by entering with fifteen credits already under my belt. The truth of the matter is that I was surrounded by nerds. Even in that melting pot of culture where the foreign language hallway was more of an arena, I was safe from diversity in the insulated fishbowl where leaders of tomorrow allegedly honed their skills. College was no different. My dorm was in the newly renovated hall set aside for brainiacs. Again, I somehow managed to weasel my way in like a fox among the flock. "Tattoo Mike", they called me, since by that point I had two:  a snowflake and Bugs bunny. Can you imagine what type of ball-less wonders would give a kid with lame images like those adorning his arms that undeserved nickname? I was the hard-ass of the pansies. I was the king of the losers. I was a lot of things until I tried unofficially switching my major to Jack Daniel's and had my independent study program vehemently rejected. I became a lot more things, one of them a pipefitter. Then the Internet came along and gave us all the level playing field that we'd been lied to about already having in school:  social networking.

It started with MySpace, but we don't need to go there. That'd be like mentioning the handsy uncle who's groped us all once or twice during holiday party photo opportunities. Facebook is the way of the world. Twitter, Instagram, and whatever other timesinks we choose to indulge in also contribute to the creation of alter egos that swing from rays of Wi-Fi. No longer must we limit our interactions to those that'd transpire organically through the doldrums of our beaten paths. We encounter individuals from all walks of life--from the neck-bearded virgin on a computer that could hack the Pentagon to the yayo-slinging thug who spies on his shorty's latest activities via smartphone--and are forced to make a choice reminiscent of an Alcoholics Anonymous poster I've never seen in person:  Adapt or die. That's what it boils down to since we are held accountable for everything we portray ourselves to be online; even the things we approve of through clicking the Like button. There's a great equalizer which holds us all in check. One should not risk acting the fool in the presence of strangers from other walks of life; or one does, and draws the wrath of the modern-day version of the Old West vigilante: the Cyberbully.

The Cyberbully is a direct product of evolution. If cyberbullying didn't exist then Al Gore would invent cyberbullying, possibly in a room full of monkeys manning typewriters. Our sore-assed society which spews new buzzwords like Oppositional Defiant Disorder every-other-month to define a circumstance which is perfectly normal has coined the word and cast it in a negative light. I don't view it that way, however. Cyberbullying plays a vital role in policing cyberspace and assuring that order is maintained. From an IRL ("in real life", for those unaware) standpoint, the benefits are even more critical. We live in an age where adults fear their children and the forest is ignored for the trees. Too often the coddled individual who should be smacked is glorified instead. The battlefield is red with the blood of truthful speakers, martyred by the media at the hands of left-wing executioners.

That is where the cyberbully (who now assumes a lower-case status for the sake of simplicity) comes into play. The war waged on the Internet (still capitalized) is not under scrutiny by the dogmatic groups and agencies that govern our everyday lives. A grammar Nazi will correct your ignorance of your own language now and then, but other than that it's a free-for-all. If you run your mouth--nay, flutter your fingers--in a manner that's unbecoming then you'd better be ready to incur the vengeance of the nearest cyberbully. He is armed with scathing wit, credible links, and array of memes that may or may not be culled from scenes from the original (and only, arguably) "Willy Wonka" film. He probably didn't get laid last night and you're definitely going to pay for that. You'll be bashed with words that you can't use in your cubical, like "butthurt" and "douchelord", and groaning about it will only make matters worse. His sharpened tongue will belittle you to the point of considering FB suicide, but that could never happen since one does not simply pull the plug on the Matrix. There you'll sit, spanked and humiliated by someone who may be a total stranger, with only the safety of distance and invisibilty to aid you. The monitor's a shield. The keyboard is a sword. And the kids you picked on in high school who didn't manage to become members of law enforcement are now going to sacrifice you to the gods of bandwidth if you rock the boat too hard. Deal with it, and be grateful for the last stronghold of political incorrectness in this pussified America that'd make her forefathers weep.

Now excuse me while I go rattle my canary cage and rub one out to those leaked Jennifer Lawrence pics...

Sour Mash Beatitudes

Marc found Dale rummaging through a trash can between two gasoline pumps. A Hefty bag laden with plastic, glass, and aluminum beverage receptacles dangled from a belt loop at the side of his tattered dungarees. No razor had touched his face months, but the sweatshirt he wore managed to maintain its luminous white although it was months since Labor Day had passed. Broadway failed to notice his fashion blunder. "Perfect," Marc muttered to himself. "Perfect."

Dale glanced up from his industrious endeavor for long enough to strike Marc's eyes with silent spears that exposure hadn't dulled. No plea for pocket change came from his weathered face. Marc began to wonder if his prior assessment was correct. This outdoor entrepreneur seemed staunchly independent. Perhaps that's fitting, Marc thought as he composed a proposal in his head.

"What's your favorite brand of whiskey?"

"Maker's Mark," Dale shot, unhesitant to unholster.

"Want to come for a walk?" Marc asked. It was a gamble with odds like the literacy rate in Georgia, but he took it. "It's hard to find a man with a taste for bourbon in town these days."

"Sure," Dale replied. "Just no funny stuff." Marc wondered what he meant, then cringed at the possibilities. There were truths that no newspaper would dare to uncover.

There'd been a fire down the block. Remnants from the cracked hydrant coated the macadam. Rollers from the responders' vehicles reflected off the pavement. Two bearded thirty-somethings slowed their Zipcar and approached the curb in reverse gear. Rubber tore from the side of the rear tire while the god of parallel parking shook his head in the offing. Marc and Dale walked by, dodging a minefield of niggerspit on the sidewalk. Music from the adjacent barbershop blared through the fogged storefront glass.

"Ever been here?" Marc asked as he pointed to the hip new distillery a few steps ahead of them.

"Not lately," Dale replied, clutching his bag of empties. Dale heard the humor that hid beneath the dirt.

"Let's see if they've got anything as good as Maker's."

The two men entered a rowdy sea of revelers. Flannel was the dress code. Sarcasm filled the air. Marc led Dale to the counter unperturbed. A kid unfit for combat rolled his sleeves two inches higher, approached his two new customers, and gulped an imagined shot.

"What'll it be?" he asked.

"Something like Kentucky." Marc elbowed Dale, but didn't get a rise.

"That'll be eight bucks," said the timid employee.

Marc raised his eyebrows. "The sign says there's a tasting."

"That's for..." the kid behind the counter began. "Sure," he said, amended. He poured them out two jiggers.

"This tastes more like Tennessee," Marc said after swigging.

"Tastes more like my boxers," Dale belched without a pause.

The hipster with tattoos he'd regret in three years didn't know what to make of it. "How about this one?" He doled them out and wiped the bar. Marc and Dale sniffed their whiskeys, then took them to the hilt.

"Are there bubbles in yours?" Marc asked his companion.

"Sure as hell are. Are you serving us dishwater, Jack?" Dale inquired.

The youth behind the oak succumbed to his assailant. A given name is trivial. There were larger problems looming.

"What's that one in the small bottle up there?" Marc asked, pointing to a remote corner of the top shelf.

"That's not on the tasting list. It's limited. My boss would..."

"Are you some kind of test-tube baby?" Dale was proud of his contemporary insult. He once slept under a newspaper with a headline about that phenomenon. It stayed with him.

"Let me have a bottle of it; sealed." Marc eyed the slinger of booze, poised for swift retaliation.

"Sir, that's a two-hundred-and-thirty-dollar bottle."

"Do you take cash in this dump?" Marc replied. Dale seemed shocked. Marc plucked the bills from his wallet and waited for the change.

The clerk placed it in a paper bag and slid it across the counter. "Enjoy."

"It ain't for me," Marc said, passing the package to the stranger to his left. "Dale here's celebrating." There was no further mention of what fortunate event had transpired. Clarification was not required. One doesn't question greatness. One merely nods the head.

"For your troubles," Dale said as he laid his bag of recyclables on the bar. It was the first time he'd tipped in awhile.