Bob Brault, American poet

Born in the shadow of Bunker Hill in Chelsea Naval Hospital on George Washington’s birthday in 1952, I arrived just in time to get my corpsman daddy out of getting shipped off to Pork Chop Hill with the marines. My babyhood home, Charlestown, was an Irish slum that has since been torn down. The Standells wrote a love song about the neighborhood in 1966 called “Dirty Water.” My first poem was published in the Boston Globe when I was in 5th grade on the comic pages. It was called “Porcupine from Paris” and went like this:

Hello Americans, one and all!
I’m a porcupine named Butterball.
Yesterday, I left Paree
To see the world in a Model T.
I started speeding on Route 10
And ended up in the Chicago pen.
I stayed there for one hot day,
And when I got out it was May.
I headed my car to Dixieland
To play a flute in a Confederate band
But on the way I got home sick,
So I headed for France lickety-split.
For reckless driving behind the wheel
I got life in the Bastille.
I think I’ll stay here till I die,
So to you all I say ,”Good-bye”.

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As Mr. Dylan sez, “20 years of schoolin’ and they put you on the dayshift.” Worked a lot of jobs: picked corn and tomatoes on a truck farm in the Connecticut valley in junior high. First after school job was as a page in Hartford Public Library. Spent breaks listening to Alan Lomax’s Library of Congress blues recordings and the early recordings of Louis Armstrong’s Hot 5. Hardest part of the job was waking up the winos in general reading and sending them out into the winter night. In addition to working in a bunch of libraries, I’ve also been an industrial engraver, security guard,dispatcher, bartender, quality control lab tech for Pepsi, inspected Tomahawk cruise missles in El Cajon, watched Captain Kangeroo with the barely employable at Dixie Labor Pool waiting for the $2 bill for lunch that came with each brutal gig. Spent 7 months in the Navy: boot camp in San Diego; sang with Bluejacket Choir; avionics in Memphis; AWOL in New Orleans writing for “Broken Barriers”, an underground newspaper that provided press passes for southern rock concerts, Allman Bros. In the Superdome, etc. Played music on Bourbon Street for the 50 cent plates of red beans and rice at Buster Holmes and cheap Dixie beer at Milanese grocery. Got processed out of the Nav. Got the good janitor and later library gig at Loyola University. BA in English. Bartending in the Vieux Carre. Lazy days drinking coffee and smoking in the rotting outhouse in the jungle-like courtyard of Rue Royale Imports. Beat night poetry recitations. First marriage and flight to California for 18 years of surfin’ sufari and psychedelic remembrances of days of future past. Met Sandy at Jose Murphy’s on a beer and margarita enchanted evening when the grunion were running and got married a year later [wife number 2] Had Vincent on Father’s Day when I was 40. Emily came along 3 years later. Last year, grew tired of the faded glory of the California Dream. Found a gig on the internet doing document/delivery at Eli Lilly and moved to Indianapolis, not far from the wife’s childhood home in Shelbyville. Still write, play music and currently work Circulation at the IU School of Medicine Library. After all is said and done, it’s real important to retain one’s sense of wonder and see the magic all around us.

Television Poems

Television Poems

I.

Still Life With Static

bronzed baby shoes
sharing dust with rabbit ears
and the evening news
is all she hears.
a human voice
explains another choice
of how it’s going to end:
not with a wimper
but with a test pattern. [fade to black]

 

II.

Counterfit Reality
it comes like sudden death
angry dancing dots on the screen
and electronic waterfall rushing
white noise:
the cable is disabled.
the customer service phone tree
is busy and the answer
if you get it
is, “We’re working on it.”

the years that you’ve invested
in 60 minutes solutions
mind mushing commercials
and emotional investment
in characters whose fictional
lives defined you
since you were first seduced
by its cyclopean eye-
all those hours you can’t get back
like the brain suckers in “Day of the Trifids”
television has become
an extension of your nervous system.

Steeltown Blues

(for W)

A flight
of starlings
devour the light
filtered through the
smog-filled air;
their droppings
thick as cement
turn the dying city
below into still-life

pigeon pollock patina-
statue of a great
capitalist
who put nature
on the back burner,
a high-wire artist
with terminal
vertigo….

60's serenade
[paper nirvana]they wanted Camelot,
Bay of Big Wigs is
what they got;
Bongo Congo
LSD
Chemical Warfare
ABC
shoot the war
on videotape
ride the Freedom Bus
we must escape
shoot that rocket at the moon
take out my heart
and give it to someone
who won’t think about
how fucked this all is:
a pope who cries
about starvation in India
and bans the pill the next day;
favors vatican roulette
and rhythm and blues;
succumbs to motown
and
mass murder from a tower
strikes once
upon the hour.
rock and roll can save
your soul
and if you slow down time
you will never grow old.
yeah,
we churned out mythology
pretty fuckin’ fast,
but you know,
paper nirvana
it really don’t last…………………….
Steve McQueen

Never knew much about
Jimmy Dean
But dead or alive
we sure wanted Steve McQueen

He knew that Hell was for heros
and took us to that place

THE GREAT ESCAPE:

that picture of him on the german chopper
pulling a wheelie
over the barricades
represented for a bunch of kids
the rising above the repression
of their middle class lives
Hilts- The Cooler King!

I used to go over to my grade school
inside the brick alcove closest to the principal’s office
with a hardball and a glove
and practice throwing the ball against the wall
like he did
pretending to be in solitary confinement
for the simple crime
of trying to escape from
my 1963-1970 existence.

watching people on the bus
weeping openly
the day after Dallas.

sitting in the bleachers
at the little league stands
with no one else around
trying to deal with the news
of bobby kennedy’s death.

going to the canteen dance
the night of the weekend
of Martin Luther King’s assassination
wondering
about the fire this time.

just wanted to blast outta town like a Bullitt.
badder and faster
down the crookedest street in America
just like Steve McQueen.

edward hopper night hawk...green with envy

eatin’ spengler sushi
at the salmon neon
mincemeat millenium diner
ahi origato with fresh tomato
blotto nukie and saki
or a splash of what made milwaukee famous
cherry peppers
deep inside your meatball grinder
and juliet as julienned
as a cubistic madonna
that loves to pieta you
after she nails you to the crossroads
under a hunter’s moon
orange like kumquat dreams
on fire;
herbie the love bug
collides head-on
with a streetcar named desire.

schlock flashback - ((((((( )))))))))

roll the movie backwards
fast forward in reverse
your lateness
pops out of the stretch limo hearse
once more you’re alive
getting better with each frame
back to the days
when you remembered
all their names the family
and blissful retirement ended
and you began to finish
your job again
back to college
back to high school
back to grade school
and babyhood again
back to the womb
back to the seed
back to the egg
and the solid moment of desire
inspiring spark,
where your parents are melting
in macarthur park…..

Pluto Atlantis

prepare for extremes
the carbomb that blasts you
into a reality so far removed
from the headlines
that it seems like a neo-American
mythology (nights in sleepy hollow)
washed up on the shore like beached pilot whales
whoses inner sonar
failed to give them direction
toward freedom on the horizon,
the line dissolving into royal blue darkness-
awaiting the rebirth of wonder-
the past merging with the future
and a new knowledge
engraved in crystal chips.

we must face it now
or sufficate with
the death of the wind…

wonder cocoon

when was the last time
we laughed and slept
in whirlpool rhymes

like when we played
alice-in-wonderland:

i was the white rabbit
and you were the tree
and also the alice

who fell into you
while following me…

reverse osmosis

takin’ the salt out of the water,
takin’ the oil out of the ground,
leaving little holes
for whom the mole tolls
as the sinkhole in Orlando
slouches towards Disneyland
(not to mention the demise of Live Oak Gardens in New Iberia)

underground nuke test in Kamchatka
earthquake next day in Iran
karma’s cause n’ effect
but what the heck
not in fire or ice but a flash

Salvation Poem

waving down a streetcar
in the middle of the rosary,
wild willy the wino rode on
past the cruxifixion
through several glorious mysteries
and was proceeding left
at the junction
of our father and vine
when suddenly
a late-model hail mary taxi
ran the light
colliding with the ill-fated
vehicle,
leaving everyone
in the aftermath
as strung out
as they had been
in the beginning…

widow's walk

she taps
her nails
on antique leeward panes of glass-
a broken watch of a woman
dressed in clothes
of another age
faded as an old curtain
whose only purpose
has been
to block out the sun
somewhere in the attic
she waits

The Last Shot Got Apollonaire

verdun, argonne
bellieu wood,
the lost battalion
found salvation
in a broken carrier pigeon
left waiting at the station
more dead than alive.

trench-mouth
cotton-mouth
and gangrene oozing;
scarecrows stumble through no-man’s land:
who’s winning?
who’s losing?

mustard gas,
flammenwurfer,
phosphorus grenade;
a whole generation of english poets
playing old maid
(looking suspiciously like
the Queen of Spades)
with 500 Spartans
who rode into the Valley of Death
and saved neo-colonialism
with their dying breath.

The sun never sets on
The Real War.
The soldier of fortune
and the black market whore
may dicker one time
over the price of flesh
(and maybe more)
while the oligarchy
and the commodity cartel
sing “Hail to the Chief”
and wish them well
with a barbed-wire G-clef.

Reflections on a tip tray

in the french garden bar
i find you
wearing the peacock dress
in a beardslean dream
composed
(upon close inspection)
of businessmen’s eyeballs
and silver dollar sequins:
gyration and libation;
a crystaline inertia
has brought them all here,
but where is the vision
once the lived fantasy is complete?

Creature Feature

(for the children of the 3rd rail)

ticking like a turnstile,
the Metro Gnome
carves soap sculptures
out of cinderblock
in the raven slaughter shadow
of the cathedral clock
thinking of the linear inner city
as a 3-dimensional chess board
worn down from years of repetition
as people hurry by with shopping bags
and trashmen pick up garbage bags,
in electric darkness mutters,
“tsk,tsk,tsk,tsk,tsk,tsk,tsk”……

somewhere in between
the ideal and reality
there’s a whole lot of dying going on
in slow motion
and between the frozen frames of daylight
and the night train
comes ticking like a turnstile
the Metro Gnome.

Oriental Burrito Dream Sauce

On Tibetan skull-drums
I have played
a two-toned rhythm of rain:
the hourglass of cranium
and stretched human skin
echoing in the enchanted
Cathedral de San Miguel [burned down by the Hopis for being built on their sacred ground
guarding the baked adobe and resurrected like a Phoenix]
streets of Santa Fe
where not far away
the fleas of nomadic prarie dogs
carry the Black Death
though the sagebrush canyons and aroyos
of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains
to the r and r grounds
where the Mexican War troops
of the 1840’s came back
down the Camino Real
without flashing a glimpse
of the 7 cities of Cibola
surrounded by memories of the sequoia
paranoia that left them small
on the cliffs of Big Sur, worried
about that long last swim to China…..

If You See the Buddha, Kill Him

[zen ice cream koans]the pail is bottomless,
the sunshine and clouds
glow in the puddle.
the clap of one hand against itself
is more deafening
than the lotus elf.

the butterflies
or falling leaves
and twinkling stars-
the night air breathes.

into the Void
the gentle void
don’t be annoyed
at the flow employed
or the signs implied
by the changing sky

or the changing tide
of a world so wide.

L'ecole de Dieu

After the Dark Night of the Soul
staring wide-eyed at the streetlights
silverblue haloes
bursting into chakras
as the gentle raindrops
splattered the world of Maya
from the earthbound orbs’ “perception,”
there shone all about
The Eternal One
who spoke of the transfiguration
of the Word
to Essence
that all might know
this life is the first lesson..

2nd Ezras

(day-old pound cake)

fire, wind and
yesterday —

all that’s
left is
raindrops
and smoke.

last

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