John Bennett

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Misanthropic Exceptions to the Rule

I lend a
helping hand to
small children
dogs &
crazy people
when I can.

The rest
of you can
go fuck

Mr. X

I've got this friend we'll call Mr. X. who has what is blithely called “depression” by people attending cocktail parties. They use the word "depression" like people in robust health use "otherly abled" when talking about someone with no legs. They don't make the connection between depression and playing Russian roulette; or carving your arms up with a razor; or worse yet, sitting over a cup of coffee from sunrise to sunset, unable to pick it up.

Mr. X has done all these things. But at other times he soars into ecstasy for no apparent reason. He's not your run-of-the-mill depressive, he's manic depressive, another cocktail-party catch phrase.

Periodically Mr. X has been told to pull himself up by his bootstraps, and if he happens to be in the manic phase of the depression cycle when this advice is given, he plummets like a stone. It's the absurdity of the suggestion that brings him down, compounded by the thinly disguised anger that underlies it.

Mr. X has found various ways of dealing with his depression. Drugs and alcohol kept the wolves at bay for a lot of years. Intense physical exercise helped for quite a while, but therapy never did much good. Nothing was fool-proof against the sudden onslaught.

Writing has been the one thing that's been a constant plus. He doesn't get money or recognition, but now and then someone sends him a letter. 

Recently a friend of his, another depressive and also a writer, committed suicide. He was only 46. He'd become well known, and they'd given him a MacArthur Genius Grant. People wonder why he did it, comitted suicide, but Mr. X thinks he knows — it's because to win their accolades he didn't write his pain, he wrote about it.

Such a concession amounts to self-betrayal.

Mum's the Word

Mum's the
word when
it comes
to surgery.

I clean
windows for a
lot of
old people,
& if I
tell them
I had
aneurysm surgery
when they
inquire about
my health,
they brighten
up &
want to
swap stories.

So now I say
“Never Better”,
which is
what my
father used
to say,
right up
until he
& died.

Now: a few steps beyond Wall Street

I'm prepared to spit out an admission, claim a small chunk of birth right, take the smile off the smiley face, point my over-worked finger, circumvent all the road blocks.

Don't forgive them father because they know not what they do, and by them I mean all of us. Forgiveness isn't at play here, comeuppance is. The brutal face of grim consequence. You don't have to know what's happening to you for it to be happening.

Deep truth can only be realized, never uttered. You don't arm wrestle Goliath, you take him down with a slingshot.

When you use the tools of the Beast, you feed the Beast. We're all guilty. Take that as fact, not judgment. Take it as a jumping off place.

Out-in-the-open protest creates name lists, not change; but it's a prod to a sleeping awareness. Once you've rubbed the sleep from your eyes, practice invisible mayhem. All at once stop buying Corn Flakes, you and a few million other people. Next week make it cars. Then Budweiser and skate boards, TVs and computers. Feed the hungry with your own hand. Raise a barn or two. Don't post it on Facebook.

What needs doing is so simple it hurts, and it's unstoppable if it ever gets started. It will spread like contagion. We can wash the stain from our souls without outside intervention.

"If only we could get enough men to walk together," Bukowski said in a poem sixty years ago, "but we won't."

"What's needed is a change of heart," Henry Miller said thirty years before that. "Otherwise things are apt to get worse."

We no longer speak the tongue we were born with. 

We speak the Beast’s language. 

Public Education

God & Guns
Made in America --

a bumper
on a
back bumper,
& on
either side
of that,
one with
a picture
of Obama
with horns
and another
that says,
Jesus Is the Way.


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.”