John Bennett

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Nothing Else to Learn

Try it
one more

Swing out
of the
tree like
you mean it.

Fess up
that you
to be

Put it
down in
black &
white, bury
it in
the dark
soil of

Still nothing.

Remember when
you were
a kid
& spent
in a

Do you
really think
anything left
to learn
after that?

Climb back
up in
that tree.

Never come
down again.

Cranking Out Culture

According to
the Writer's
Digest in
the next
ten years
creative writing
programs will
turn out
writers of
fiction who
will submit
15,000 manuscripts
annually to
a shrinking
number of
lit mags
that are
sinking like
coffins in a
ocean of
dead culture.

Starting a Rock 'n' Roll Band

I'm going to
start a
rock n
roll band
where all
the musicians
are over 

We'll call
ourselves the
Ancient Mariners
& play
chicken wire in
Texas bars.

Falling Leaves

Fall came, but the leaves didn't change color or fall from the trees, and soon out-of-work yard boys and gardeners began turning to crime. The gun lobby stepped in and donated high-voltage stun guns to every police department in the country to keep the yard boys in check, and in less than a month 5,000 horticulturists in New England alone were killed by stun guns used in the enforcement of the new Leaf Laws that were passed in an emergency session of Congress to deal with what was being called the Leaf Uprising.

Other measures were taken to strengthen the economy, weakened by the leaves not falling. Food stamps, Medicare and unemployment were abolished, and the unemployed were drafted into a government work force that went up and down the tree-lined streets of wealthy neighborhoods across the country, working out of trucks with boom lifts, painting leaves red, yellow and gold; they were housed in tents in compounds on the edge of town and fed gruel and vitamin pills. They were not allowed to smoke or leave the compound when not painting leaves.

No one saw this business with the leaves coming, and everyone had his own take on
what brought it on. The Christian Right claimed it was an act of God to punish people using birth control, the Tea Party said it was the latest in Muslim terrorism, and there was almost unanimous agreement that it had nothing to do with the myth of global warming. Within a month 80% of all Facebook entries referred in some way to the leaves not changing, and Hollywood stepped in and began pumping out apocalyptic movies about tree demons.

Sensing that they had to act swiftly before things got worse, Congress voted to give Monsanto a three billion dollar government grant to research a way to genetically engineer leaves so they would change colors in the fall and turn green again in spring, and they gave another billion to Dupont to come up with a chemical that could be sprayed on the trees to make the leaves fall to the ground.

The Pope of Rome, who had already caused an uproar by saying that gays were children of God,  asked all good Catholics, when Christmas rolled around, to engage in a world-wide 24-hour vigil and pray to God to heal the trees, which prompted bookmakers in Vegas to give three to one odds that he would be assassinated before the first day of winter.

Donald Trump stepped forward and said the whole thing with the leaves was a lie, that what had happened is the world had gone color blind, and the real danger had nothing to do with leaves, the real danger was that now it was impossible to recognize illegal immigrants just by looking at them, and the American Way of Life was in danger.

A gallop poll showed that 86% of the American public agreed with him.

The Way We Were

I remember a time when a bar code had to do with how you behaved in a bar, and scanning was what you did when you were on the lookout for female companionship. If a scan turned out negative, you could always stroll down to the next bar. There were no video machines back then on which to play war games to alleviate your frustration.

There were also no cell phones with a list of numbers coded into them. If you wanted to call a woman you'd scanned with success in the past, you had to have her number committed to memory or scribbled on a piece of paper in your wallet or else look it up in a phone book. Phone books had every phone number in the city in them and were located on a shelf just under the pay phone. Pay phones were located on the wall
in most bars, usually back by the restrooms, or on street corners in brightly-lit glass booths. You dropped a quarter into a slot and dialed the number. There were no digital phones. And you couldn't take pictures with a pay phone, or text or check your email. There was no email. There were no computers, and cameras used film that had to be sent off to Kodak to be developed. If you wanted to send a written message you wrote it on a piece of paper, stuck it in an envelope, and mailed it. It would take from two days to a week to reach its destination. There wasn't much frivolous communication going on back then.

If a scan in a bar proved successful, there was a protocol to be followed. You'd walk up to where she was sitting at the bar, gesture toward the empty stool next to her, and say: “Is this seat taken?” Or: “Mind if I sit here?” Or, if you were real sure of yourself, “How about I buy you a drink?” and then just sit down.

A few drinks later, after exchanging names and talking about where you work and all the places you've lived, you'd signal the bartender for the bill and pay in cash -- there were no credit cards. Then you and the scan might go to another bar where there'd be live music. There were no discos.

After the bars closed you might go for a 2 a.m. breakfast at Denny's. Denny's has been around for a long time. Then, if you've played your cards right, you might take her back to your place.

Maybe this scan turns out to be the love of your life. Maybe you get married and have children. It would be a surprise each time whether the baby was a boy or a girl. There was no ultrasound. And the baby would not have a plastic bracelet attached to its wrist shortly after birth with a Social Security number on it. There were Social Security numbers, but you had to go down and apply for one when you were old enough to work.

I'm not making this up. This is really the way it was. If you don't believe me, Google it.


John Bennett was for many years the driving force behind Vagabond Press which operated on the run from Munich to DC to New Orleans to San Francisco and beyond.  He’s published four novels, two novellas, five short story collections and numerous books of poetry, essays and shards, a poem/story hybrid of his own invention.

He keeps slamming out the words, if anything with more ferocity than ever. As Henry Miller said so eloquently around half a century ago, “You may as well have your say, they’re going to shit on you anyway.”