prose poems

This Is The Real Shit

May 4, 2011      James Hayes Nichols
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They told you this was the real shit. The good shit. “The best shit around, ATM.” You think it is shit. But in the crowded smoky bar, mashups mashing in the background, the hipsters speak of it almost mystically.
This is the real shit.

PBR cans crush underfoot. Pretty girls blow smoke into the faces of hapless boys in jean shorts, and the hapless boys drink the smoke like a sip of fizzy beer and wonder what the fuck they’re doing there.

It’s dark in there, and hot, and noisy. It’s beer and whiskey on the sticky floor, chemical stench wafting from the single bathroom and later most of these kids will vomit chemicals and cheap beer into squaterpad toilets or bushes behind brunch joints- Sunday morning coming down- while waiting to coat their stomach linings with grease and baconfat, and then snort it all off later.

This is the real shit.

The true shit. Uncontrived shit. Only four hundred copies shit. “The best shit around, ATM,” they told you. You aren’t thinking about the real shit anymore, or hearing it, you’re wondering why the second can of PBR tastes so rank, and why it makes your head spin like barbaric yawp.

They call it the real shit, and still they can’t be bothered to head to the backroom and pony the ten bucks to see the shit and eat the shit up and feel it- ten bucks is five PBRs brah, and at least two more hours of being seen, and heard, two more hours to look like they know what’s going on while “this is the real shit” hums behind the walls and projects on fuzzy closed-circuit TVs and the pretty girls blow smoke and look affected and the hapless boys flip their A caps and carry on.

This is the real shit.


Rusty Tracks (excerpt)

April 7, 2011      James Hayes Nichols
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Dirt for dust, ashes for bloody horrible dirty dust, gone for good or coated across the wasted trackside buildings like jelly on some shitty toast from some shitty shifty breakfast eaten in furtive corners inside shitty trackside diners, and the indigestion here on these tracks – eggpuke coffeepuke across the tracks. Bumshit pile off to the side. Disgusting.

Rusty Tracks (excerpts, pt. 2)

March 24, 2011      James Hayes Nichols
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Hazy responsibility just a dissipating shadow here in this gulch, responsibilities dissipating to the realer concerns of railroad time, watching- for broken ties jutting from the tracks, odd little brown snakes snaking around in the unruly brown grass, ready to strike or so you think, bums bumming never mean but sometimes surly, nasty-looking Atnalta skaters, golfballs flying from golfball hellcourse beside the snaky Beltline track coursing through, phantom CSX robocops on the Beltline prowl – and forgetting, reveling in that forgetting.

Dustclouds billowing from the tracks- dustdevil dervishes, dustdevil timeclouds, dusty sandy throatcoat dustclouds- and you take cover under the overpass, not in the overpass teepee but you do peepee behind the great graffiti’d columns, and see that others did that same pee dance, along with other carnal viscera – old condoms, condom wrappers, beer bottles, wine bottles, nasty thought of those who’d fuck behind overpass columns. Maybe it was a teepee orgy or maybe two crack lovers kissing powdery lips each to each, disgusting and sadly romantic, dusty love behind honeymoon columns, behind George W-as-Golem. Did any Wonderroot teepee kids hear them grunting and giggle? And return to their communal squalor and blog it? We were at the teepee and saw two bums fucking it was disgusting Bobby’s painting it on the porch right now wow teepee hell and bums fucking see you guys at the house show.

Rusty Tracks (excerpts)

March 9, 2011      James Hayes Nichols
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The fascination in a chainlink fence, the way it cuts the scene, the hard aluminum wires twisting looping converging to a little twisty tiptop, seven feet of implied menace but not fooling anyone on a gray blusterday, trying to taverse this fence en route to conquering the Beltline of the mind literally and figuratively. Climb over and see, see you on the other side, climb over and try not to rip your jeans on the way down to the other side- forbidden side- but why? Here on the forbidden side are the same forgotten rusty railcars, graffiti’ed nearly out of recognition, forlorn, rusty, rusty tracks seared into the earth two centuries past now rusty and sticky with bum pee, only a hipster photoshoot now- same as the rusty tracks on the safe side, free side, the side with no CSX sign, free-to-rust-free-for-all, no chainlink menace so easily crossed no cross railroad boss no Blazing Saddles silly workmen clogging the jogging yuppies, Golden Retrievers, bums, Wonderroot kids making Beltline art and scowling as you pass, gas station signs from long-ago-abandoned gas stations- Gulf- graffiti’ed as well (they love the Krylon, these kids), and skateboard kids getting their Vans dusty with graveldust, the dust of two centuries, of now and later, forbidden dreamer.



but where are your lookouts, CSX? The rentacops don’t care and the Robocops have better things to do (ostensibly), so who will prosecute, who to prosecute (?) on a gorgeous Mayday when silly kids decide to do the bum, the wild wake of rusty railroads, running up and down embankments careful not to twist ankles (hi-top precaution), spraypainting silly tags, licking the rust from the rusty railcars, making a lunch of it- Dickensian struggle- and dessert with the kudzu, great mountains of kudzu at all sides, the rail like the river of Germany and the kudzu-covered trees the riverside peaks but where are the Disneyland castles? Look and see- the big owlnests at the tops of the Mount Kudzus- there’s your Disneyland castles in this depressing damned doodoo Disneyland. Don’t take your kids here. The winning quarterback is not after the winning touchdown and hometown parade, he won’t wish upon a star, he don’t know the Beltline and he don’t care. And we don’t care.

Bloody Brandon

February 16, 2011      James Hayes Nichols
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It’s a flame and we draw to it like moths, like flies, like the make money money this street has become. What does the visiting Englishman say when he sees this street and its Resurgens stagnation? Does he see Manchester in it? Or maybe East London? Certainly the names have changed to protect the uncaring, and the curbs are red with the blood of Brandon who fell from his bike onto the curb, face-first, after leaving Noni’s latelate one night- drunk- and there was a band playing there and the Noni’s party people noted how odd it was for a band to be playing there, and pretended it was cool but secretly and in grumbled ear-leanings resented that they couldn’t drink their wine and yellow Italian beer in quiet Edgewood Ave. peace, but we loved it and didn’t care about the Noni’s party people and their V-necked elbows-on-the-bar ways. We watched the band, we listened to the band, we sang along when it was called for (and when we knew the words) and we became gloriously furiously gin-drunk and had to stop each other from harassing the harassed bigtitted bartenders and from trying to hit on the girlfriends of the hip Noni’s kids. It was ugly and it was sacred and a headpounding heartpounding thing, that night and that early morning, and Brandon’s blood all over the Edgewood curb and we figured it was bum blood, bad drugdeal blood, not silly drunk Brandon blood. That night we thought him the craziest, sweetest bastard in the Old 4th Ward- saintly, bloody Saint Brandon on his bike, then off it, bloodying the curb and sleeping in a North Highland condo parking lot, eliciting the sympathy of horrified Highlands girls who called us from his phone- ”Um, we’re Brandon’s friends and he’s hurt and he doesn’t know where he is and you need to come get him and figure this out, he’s all bloody, he’s hurt“- but they didn’t know that we didn’t know and how could we know, drunk as we were on gin and the Noni’s smoke and the perverted thrill of being abrasive just because we could get away with it and no one was gonna stop us (skinny V-neck hipsters vs. burly half-fat scumbag Atlanta nincompoops)? Brandon abandoned himself that night and left only the bloody curb in his wake and we thought it funnier than it was sad or scary but the Highlands girls were harried- bless their Samaritan souls- into helping this poor, bloody mess, bloody Brandon of the bleeding condo parking lot, bloody Brandon of the curb.

The next day, with heavy air and black clouds and rain on the green grass, darker green kudzu, red clay, we inspected a shady house in a sketchy hood, cheap but at a price- we of the pounding heads and rumbling guts, hangovers so severe we couldn’t hold our heads up, heads rolling, tongues lolling, vomit suppressed with supreme exertion of will- “Ryan really wants to buy this place?”- “Yeah. It’s kinda smack in the middle of everything”- “Smack in the middle of…shit, dude, look at this place”- “It’s cool, man”- “I don’t know”- “God, I’m so fucking hungover”- “Ugh“- ”I can’t hold up my head, I’m so hungover”- Walking around the place, sniffing through the attic, leaning against the rotting clapboards, chugging up humid breath and ruing the Noni’s night, the ginsmashed night, and Brandon, bloody Brandon.

And then, with a splash of kicked gravel and a clunky giggle, he was there, at the hood house, astonishing us with silent ubiquity and brass balls: Brandon, atop his bike- banged, scraped, but still trusty, still delivering the rider diligently despite the non-diligent drunk delinquency of the Noni’s nighttime- in the same ratty white undershirt of the night before, now covered in redbrown spattered dried blood and yellowish something (puke?), – bloody Brandon of the curb, at the sketchy hood house, and alive, and kinda OK.

“Ho. Lee. SHIT man! What the FUCK happened to you?”- “Well, I got really fuckin’ wasted, man”- “Oh, man, you crazy bastard”- “Are you alright? What happened last night?”- “I left that bar and fuckin’ upended somewhere on Edgewood and I lost my keys and I had all these fuckin’ bums going up and down the street looking for ‘em”- “But what about your bike? What about those girls that called?”- “Ah, man, those fuckin’ girls. Man, I don’t know but they were fuckin’ freaked out, man. I was just like, ‘hey it’s cool, I’m just gonna sleep it off, y’all,’ but they were freakin’ out and getting all mad at me cuz I wouldn’t go along with…hey, did you see that girl checking me out at that bar? What was that bar called?”- “Noni’s?”- “Yeah, Noni’s. She was eyeing me. Man, my bike is kinda fucked, huh?”- “Dude, YOU’RE kinda fucked.”- “Are you sure you’re ok? Are you still drunk?”- “Huh? Oh, nah, nah man. My head hurts”- “So Brandon, you’re OK? You almost died…”- “Oh, yeah man. That was a lot of fun. I mean, looking back it was a lot of fun, y’know?”- “Fuckin’ maniac, Brandon”- “Lunatic”- “Hehehehe!”

Laughing, Brandon was, his shirt ragged and torn and covered with what had to be two pints of old blood, and his knees scabby like a child’s knees, and his right ankle blue with bruise, and his bike bent and busted, too, and Brandon was laughing. He was alive. He’d made friends with the street people of the Edgewood night, he’d caught a pretty girl eyeing his wide-eyed drunken reverie, he’d heard a good band, and now he had a good story. He was happy- happy, bloody Brandon of the Edgewood curb, Saint Brandon the hero, riding off into the Edgewood sunset on his bent and bloody bike.

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