Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Czech Characters"

The following poems depict characters I’ve encountered while living here in Prague. There is a small story behind them, which I will tell you at the end.

Dr. Soup

I sat in an old room
With dark walls
I watched as a slight man
Walked out on stage
He was the last act
In an improv orchestra
He took his place
At a workstation
It cradled the bodies
Of cyborg octopi
Their tentacles
Blinked and curled
At their center
Was a cauldron-like turntable
The man laid his fingers
On its soup
He tapped its ripples
And brought it to life
Soon the walls were
Humming with static
It lit up my nerves
And dumped fish
Down my spine
A grinding came in
Then bloops, bleeps,
And buzzes
I felt I was
Being squished
Through the intestines
Of a robot
I looked over at the man
And saw him change
He went from cool and skinny
To red and mad
His eyes grew veins
And his hair hung in his face
He worked those fingers
Like electric chain gangs
They tweaked out sounds
That took a cheese grater
To my soul
When the act finally ended
I was hollow-eyed
And drooling
I craved another bowl



I met her at a whorehouse
Where there steps
Were wet
She was behind the bar
Playing with her phone
I climbed up on
A stool
And gave her a smile
She poured me a beer
And asked my name
“Hans,” I said.
“And you?”

The next night I came by
And she danced for me
It was her turn
To wear the lace
She fell in my lap
And crossed her legs
I tried to kiss her
“No!” she said.
“Because you want it!”

I took her home later
And fucked her
Her skin looked blue
In the dark
When we finished
We went to the shower
She was afraid to remove
Her towel
“What’s the problem?”
I asked
Her big eyes glistened
 “I have a condition,” she said
“A condition? What kind?”
She bowed her chin
And opened her towel
Her skin jumped out
At me like a
Frightened cat
There were lesions
And burn marks everywhere –
The handprints of a
Cruel maker
I bit my lip
And grabbed the showerhead
Maybe I could wash those things off?
When they didn’t come away
I gave up
We went back to bed
And spooned
Later that morning
I walked her to the door
I haven’t seen her since


The Little Bum with the Long Nails

I see him every Wednesday
On my tram ride home
He’s a bum
And his bones are so frail
He can barely stand
He sits where he can
And stares at his fingernails
They are long
And yellow
Most times people
Move away from him
His odor brings
And his scraggly beard

One Wednesday
The tram was full
But for two seats
A pretty girl got on
And snatched one up
A moment later
We hit a stop
The doors hissed open
And the little bum
Got on
He hobbled to the free seat
And eased his joints into it
The girl looked up
From her phone call
Ježíš Maria!”
She spat
The little bum flinched
And looked down
At his nails
The girl got up
And trotted off
I thought of sitting next to
The bum
So he didn’t feel
So bad
I never did


I read the above poems two weeks ago at Alchemy’s open-mic. When I finished, a member of the audience approached me.

“I really like what you have read,” he said. “Do you want to know why?”


“Because I am Czech. And I fink you have really capture Czech character wit doze poems.”


“Yes. Well, third poem not, but first and second for sure. We have great talent of music like first guy. And Czech girls are easy and sleep wif many mans like girl in second poem. According to me, it is all accurate description our national character.”

“I see. Well thanks for the compliment.”

I left and got a beer. As I sipped it, the humor of the whole scenario dawned on me. The guy in the first poem had been an Austrian. The girl in the second poem had been a Nigerian. In fact, the only actual “Czech” people I had written about – the bum and the girl who’d snubbed her nose at him – were in poem number three. And it was this poem that homeboy felt didn’t reflect the “Czech National Character.”

I don’t know what this says about the concept of a “national character.” Maybe, that in most cases it doesn’t hold much water.


Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

This Won't Hurt

February was a busy month for me, hence my shortage of posts. Anyways, I wanted to give you guys a little taste of the book I’ve been working on. It’s a semi-autobiographical account of my Peace Corps service in Turkmenistan. The events in the following excerpt took place just after I’d been nominated a volunteer back in 2005. I hope y’all enjoy ;)

The following week I received a letter in the mail from Peace Corps. It congratulated me for having been nominated a volunteer then unfurled into a spiraling staircase of steps I had to take to ensure that I was legally, mentally, and physically fit to serve. I kicked myself for having been so honest about my past during the online application process. I knew it would take months to finish what Peace Corps was asking of me, but what could I do? Just say “fuck it” and get crackin’.

Though a bit nerve-racking because of earlier run-ins with Livermore cops, the legal portion was the easiest for me to complete. I simply went down to our local station, gave them my information, had my fingerprints taken, then tossed ‘em the ninety bucks it cost to get my clearance papers. A week later they came in the mail. I was one step closer.

Next up was the head check. As per Peace Crops’ requirement, I was to have two one-hour sessions with a certified therapist concerning my “Experience with psychotropic substances” and my “Anxiety and depression problems resulting from the usage of these substances.” In short, I’d experimented with magic mushrooms back in college. While high, I’d seen God in a Van Gough painting then exploded through my own forehead in a blast of light. Because of all that, I’d thought I was losing my mind. It took three months of high-powered meds and six months of psychological counseling to get me back to half-normal again. When I saw the therapist she grilled me about all this. And though horrifying things crept out of the ceiling panels above me as I recounted my experience, I was able to make it through and get her clearance, suffering little more than a moist scalp and four cheeks sore from twitching.

The final and biggest hurdle was being medically cleared. I’d had many injuries as an adolescent and been quite promiscuous as a young adult, which meant the number of tests and check-ups I had to undergo was almost staggering. All in all, the doctors tested my blood, spit, and urine for every kind of drug, disease, chemical, and congenital defect in the book. Then they examined a “bone deformity” in my left foot, an atrophied muscle in my left calf, four damaged bones in my left hand, one damaged bone in my right, three suspicious-looking freckles on my nutsack, and finally, a “Right Bundle Branch Block,” which is basically a heart defect that inhibits your right ventricle from opening correctly. Since cardiac problems run in my family, this last bodily fuck-up of mine scared me the most. I nearly collapsed with relief when the doctors told me after a week that it was “no big deal.”


Once March of ’06 rolled around it seemed I was in the clear. I’d mailed all my shit to Peace Crops and gotten a “thumbs-up” on everything. The only things left to do were stack cash and pack for the big trip. But while on a supply-run to REI one day, I got a call. It was a lady from Peace Corps and she had troubling news.

“There’s an issue with your medical file,” she said.

“An issue?”

“Yes. We’ve just done a final review of it and it says here you passed a small kidney stone back in 2000.”

“Yeah, so?”

 “Sooo, we’re gonna need to have you get your bladder checked before we can give you final clearance.”

I about chucked my phone through the windshield. It took me a healthy second to breathe away the urge. Through gritted teeth, I thanked the lady for the heads-up. The next day I called our family urologist, Dr. Nguyen. The receptionist who answered told me the guy had changed offices.

“But his replacement, Dr. Hong would be happy to see you."

I came in the following Monday for my appointment. I was hungover (as usual) and in no mood for a bladder check-up. The receptionist greeted me with a smile.

“The doctor will see you now,” she said.

I nodded and walked to the back. Dr. Hong was standing in the hall waiting. He was a pudgy little smurf with black hair and shiny cheek bones. When I shook his hand it wilted like steamed cabbage. We exchanged pleasantries and he took me to the examination room. There, he asked me some questions about my kidney stone. I gave him half-answers and eyed my surroundings. Everything seemed pretty standard except for the seat behind me. It was raised and reclined with two big leg braces, bent at the knees and spread apart. I asked Dr. Hong what that was all about and he blinked once behind his specks.

“That’s where I’ll be conducting your bladder exam,” he said.

I didn’t like it but figured “what the hell.” After answering a few more questions, I dropped my pants, whipped it out and got in the seat. I assumed Dr. Hong would do some kinda touchy-feely crap followed by a few X-rays. You can imagine my surprise when he pulled out a digital TV screen with side-handles and a twelve-inch black proboscis hanging off the back.

“What the fuck are you gonna do with that?!” I yelled.

A bead of sweat trickled down Dr. Hong’s cheek. He wiped it away, swallowed hard and spoke.

“Don’t be alarmed. I’m going to insert this tube camera gently into your urethra.”

“Like hell you are!”

I cupped my junk and scrambled myself up. Suddenly, I remembered all the shit I’d been through to get to this point. Reason told me one more turd on the pile wouldn’t matter in the end. I shrunk back down, un-cupped myself and frowned.

“Have at it,” I said.

Dr. Hong nodded and swabbed my dick-tip with a numbing agent. Once it kicked in, he squared his glasses, fired up the probe, and stuck it hole-side. Before he entered, I grabbed his hand.

“Is this gonna hurt?” I asked.

He raised the corner of his mouth.

“Not so much. Just maybe a small sting.”

I exhaled and let go of his hand.

“Ok,” I said. “Proceed.”

Dr. Hong began inching his way in. At first, I felt little - a slight swelling at most. When he reached my bladder I felt a burn. It ran hot, hot, hotter up the wire till my entire penis was exploding with fire! I screamed out in agony and almost made him drop the camera. He jiggled it back in place, stared deep into the screen then drew out the probe. By the end of it, I was panting and sweating. I looked him dead in the eyes and snarled.

“Have you EVER had that done to you before?!” I said.

He shrugged and shook his head “no.”

“Well, try it on yourself sometime. Then you’ll know not to tell your next patient it only causes ‘a small sting.’”


The bladder exam with Dr. Hong turned up nothing. And though it may have been an excruciating ordeal, it did lead to my obtaining full medical clearance for Peace Corps.
Note: I reserve the right to occasionally alter the character names, descriptions, and/or event details in my posts for the purposes of identity protection and “fluidity of story.” If this puts a kink in your panties, read someone else’s blog, homey.