John Bennett

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Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

My fellow American looks in the mirror and sees Hummers and drones, smart phones and i-Artwork by Gene McCormickpads.

My fellow American works out in the gym, confusing ego with fitness.

My fellow American thinks the Third World should put more umph into it, even as the Third World and his slowly merge.

My fellow American is hoodwinked and proud.

My fellow American was put together by the world he thinks he put together.

My fellow American didn't fight two world wars just to give up the oil. What kind of saps do they take us for?

My fellow American doesn't trust Mexicans.

My fellow American's heart is full of scorn for the heretic and a fierce love of Jesus.

My fellow American does not believe there are aliens in outer space, but if there are, bring 'em on.

The payback once the bubble bursts will be brutal.

The Day the Music Died

In a ground-breaking interview on Fox News a spokesperson for the NRA asserted that there'd been no gun violence before the Beatles song Happiness Is a Warm Gun, and that it is music that should be banned, not guns. The spokesperson further pointed out that there is nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing the right to music.

By the next afternoon gun shops across the country, in a display of support for the NRA's stance, began raffling off assault weapons, and in major metropolitan areas, protesters formed picket lines in front of music stores.

That evening a Congressman from Texas gave an impromptu interview on Fox News in which he declared, "Better dead than red," and the interviewer, looking gravely into the camera, said, "There we have it, Mr. and Mrs. America. The country's fate is in your hands."

A special session of Congress was called and law makers cut their vacations short to return to Washington to do what was needed. In rare across-the-aisle cooperation, a motion was made and passed unanimously to establish a committee to begin formulating a Constitutional Amendment to ban the sale of musical instruments, with the exception of the Steinway piano and the Jew's harp. This triggered a wave of protest from the Muslim community that objected to the exclusion of the Jew's harp from the Amendment, and nine mosques were bombed before the week was out. The NRA was quick to point out that a bomb is not a gun, and that strange, dissonant music was heard coming from the mosques in question.

Efforts to reach Paul McCartney for comment were unsuccessful, but Ringo Starr came forward and expressed his opinion that drums and tambourines should also be exempt from the Amendment, a suggestion that met with an immediate rebuttal from the NRA in the form of a saturation TV commercial showing crazed savages in Africa drumming ferociously thru the night while dancing wildly around a pole festooned with shrunken heads, presumably belonging to Western missionaries. One of the dancers was wearing ear phones and was holding what appeared to be an old-fashion Walkman in his right hand; about halfway thru the commercial the camera did a freeze frame on the dancer in question and zoomed in on the hand holding the Walkman, circling it in red and bringing up the caption: "She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah."

Rock concerts were canceled and movies such as Dirty Dancing and Zorba the Greek were reclassified as X rated. Jazz musicians who began flying off to Paris and Stockholm in droves were confronted at airports by angry protesters waving plackets with indignant messages scrawled on them: The Beatles killed my son; Shoot the piano player; and America for the Tone Deaf.

President Obama addressed the nation from the White House, saying that the issue was complex and needed further study, but in the meantime, to be on the safe side, all musical instruments and music-playing devices would be banned from the Armed Services to allow America's fighting men to concentrate on their primary mission, protecting the homeland from terrorist attack.

A great silence fell over the land, punctuated thruout the night by sporadic gun fire.


Artwork by Gene McCormickThe silence of lambs, the silence of fish eggs, the silence of the war machine. The silence of the Shinto temple, the Catholic confessional, the silence of the killer whale. The silence of raging bulls, the setting sun, a dripping faucet. The silence of the din, the cascade, the deafening silence of silence.

The silence of the loud-mouth poet, a baby's cry, a worried mother. The silence of when all is said and done. The silence of a zoo at midnight, a lost cause, the moist earth under stone. The silence of a zipper, going up, coming down. The silence of a tear, a rend, a moan. The silence of joy and agony, defeat, victory and the stalemate. The silence of samsara, spinning round and round like axle gears, driving the whole show back to where it came from. The silence of exactitude, jamming Cinderella's graceful foot into a size three slipper. The silence of unanswered questions and questions never asked, of warm mud in July, of explosions and immaculate conceptions. The silence of the swift blow, lopping off the Roman's head. The silence of the Zen master who cannot stare down his anger. The silence of life's carousel and its organ grinder's music, all the horses riderless yet every ticket sold.

Some Ideas on What God Is

An old man with a beard, easily confused with Father Time.

A white rabbit in a magician's hat.

Lord Shiva in full battle dress, twirling the head of John the Baptist on a bungee cord.

A personality disorder split into three parts--a wrathful father, a son with an Oedipus complex, a white dove.

Malcolm Lowry at the tail end of a drunk.

It came to me in a dream the other night that god is a cosmic suicide and we are the ongoing aftermath. I'm pretty sure that is a whole new take on god, and I've hired a lawyer to file my claim. He's working pro bono.

I suppose I should run it by Snopes first. Some people think Snopes is god, but Snopes is a husband and wife team working off a laptop. It's also a character in a Faulkner story.

God is the Wizard of Oz, cloaked in a veil of mystery. Pull back the veil and there they are, all our shortcomings rolled into one

Just to Set the Record Straight

A long time ago Bukowski wrote Neeli Cherry (born Nelson Cherry but better known now as Neeli Cherkovski) a mean-spirited letter in which he claimed I was one of those shit poets who live off women, a letter Cherry/Cherkovski saw fit to offer for publication in Seamus Cooney's 1995 collection of Bukowski letters titled Living on Luck.

About twenty years after Bukowski wrote that letter (which was brought to my attention only recently), he wrote another letter, to me this time, in which he said: "You've fought a harder, cleaner fight than anybody that I know." And in 1966, before the Cherry/Cherkovski letter was written, Bukowski sent me an envelope stuffed with poems for the first issue of Vagabond, along with a three-page hand-written letter coved in Bukowski's famous chalk drawings of women and drunks and stating that his friend who was there when my letter arrived said he wanted to send me his soul in a box and then went howling out into the night.

I wasn't living off a woman when Bukowski's poems for the first issue of Vagabond arrived, I was supporting one, as well as a child, earning 50 cents an hour washing dishes in Munich, Germany. And when the "harder cleaner fight" letter arrived in 1984, I was living in a shack north of town without a woman in sight.

I did more physical labor before the age of eighteen (setting pins in bowling alleys, working potato harvests, building seawalls in Florida) than Bukowski did in his entire life, and at the age of 77 I still earn my keep by the sweat of my brow as a window cleaner.

I'm not pissed that Bukowski wrote what he wrote to Cherry, anybody who knew the Buk knows he was capable of malicious attacks on anyone he felt threatened by; I think what was bothering him about me around the time of that letter was that I'd published Linda King's first book of poems.

Who I am a bit miffed at is Cherry/Cherkovski, who saw fit to submit that letter of zero literary merit for publication.

Just to set the record straight.


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.”