Licking The Fun Up by Max Blagg

BOMB 31 Spring 1990
031 Spring 1990

“To begin again/turning the inside out”

Advice from the good doctor on how to survive in this Babylon
this “garden of longing sown with the seeds of ruin”
this unrequited howling for more
more of everything, of anything …
we tell lies, invent new lives
conjure up a lifestyle that fits right in with the movies and TV
play happy and sad and brutalized all at once
for the sake of realism …
It’s a perfect October day
the kind that sets your hair on fire
children dancing in a leaf storm along St. Luke’s Place
a brilliant blue sky showing the pink edge of winter
the turning of the year and the heart
and the yearnings of the heart
a time when dying seems impossibly far off
when the light caresses each single brick in the wall it hits …
The sun hits the wall
and you want to be part of that
part brick part wall part sunlight
and you feel as fragile as Humpty Dumpty
and you think of children and living and trying to go on
but the sky changes and the season changes
and now you decline as gracefully as you can
the offers of the beggars and the windowwashers
who fill the streets
and the heat that pours down like liquid drano
from a sky the color of a rotten peach
ignore the mayhem reported daily on the so called news
terminal cases in body bags
sacks of meat heading for the morgue
essential fluids seeping into the linoleum of fifth floor walk ups
and welfare hotels
distant horror in other boroughs
chubby losers wearing wires to snare their brothers
politicians committing suicide in their suburban kitchens
secretaries abducted from shopping malls
who later turn up dead in heavily wooded areas
and their cars traced to a motel in Florida
where the suspect takes the Fifth or the Carmen Miranda
you have the right to remain silent
and since you did it you might as well remain silent
all these dreary stories relayed to you
by failed comedians and amateur actors
who can barely read a teleprompter
it makes you so weary
nothing but blood and heat and guns and dying
you need gloves for your nerves
just to walk out the door …
So why worry about the dollar plunging like a diver,
like a hawk on a vole, plunging to earth,
no, not like a hawk
a hawk has elegance, beauty, dignity,
it has a purpose and a need, a reality
that the Dow Jones pork belly futures will never have
and I wish I could figure the difference
between our magazine lives and the life of a hawk
or the difference between a hawk and a handgun …
we’re neckdeep in a world of plastic
it’s a sinking feeling, a Poland state of mind …
for thirty seconds you’re necking with Marilyn Monroe in Dansk
and for the next eight hours
they’re stomping your kidneys in Krakow
and can somebody please throw in the towel
and you’ve spit out your mouthpiece
and you’re crawling to a neutral corner
and your face looks like Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet
all that raw pulpy flesh, blue bruises
and where is that bright manimal boy who was once
running to tie your shoe,
a Molotov cocktail in his spare hand?
and daddy the fun’s gone all of the fun gone

For years you let yourself be stroked and pampered
the way someone might pamper a lovely but brainless pet,
But now you don’t spend much time in the mirror anymore
you’re growing ragged around the edges,
mangy, your hair falling out,
your entire corpus in total disrepair
and those who stroked you then
are in the market for a shotgun today
and you can understand that
but still you want to get back
you want to be pure again
mend the shredded nets of your spirit catcher
absolve yourself somehow of all the medical waste
you’ve snorted and smoked and eaten
and otherwise crammed into the shaky vessel
that carries you around
the wheezing envelope of flesh
that totters daily closer to the edge—
Baby, baby, where did the fun go
where did the fun go?
It all happened so fast
one minute you were sliding on greased lightning
moving right along
grinning blindly into the camera
then suddenly, suddenly you ground to a halt
you were ground up in tiny particles
and laid along a mirror
and when the mirror was empty
you licked the snot from her nose
and then you drank her piss
pretending to impress her
with your Aztec priest routines
but really to get high from the residue
yes you were a haiku man in those days
you liked it short and tight
and now years later you flip through your kodachromes
trying to figure out
which sullen beauty put her disease in you
It’s too late to be pure
you’re swaying slightly now and praying
a man on his knees in front of some terrible news
and you want to get a handle on it
because you can’t handle it
you never learned you didn’t try
you gave up on the second lesson
you weren’t interested you didn’t care
you forgot about it canned it
blinked and looked away
looked and moved on
you underestimated the shelf life of a sex maniac
and when things got tough
you whined and lay down
like some sick barnyard animal
you are one skinned monkey and you stop no show
your aura disappeared along with your memory
down those raw dawn streets
you couldn’t even recall that her eyes were blue
and how they moved you
you careened off the page
dead or drunk or both
the needle went right off the meter
on your bullshit detector
you were totally bogus
defective in every way
and it’s going to take more than simple faith
to return from this sorry state
Your anti-damage systems are rusted out
the chrome is off your bumper Jack
and a three coat paint job is not going to cover the scars
in your body armor
sucking the fumes up sucking the fumes up
and daddy the fun’s gone
all of the fun gone
and the well run dry.

It is time to call a halt to your imbecilic acquiescence!
Don’t be led into temptation just say no
you’ve read it on your shopping bag
just say no
you’ve seen it on the telly, just say no,
so much to turn down in these Babylonian times …
Say no to thin lips and stock tips
say no to infiltrators and oil change experts
short change specialists and lube job jockeys
extending their thin fingers into your inside pocket
Say no to walking the dog
while the postman checks your wife’s mail
Say no to the shattering blue sky of Mexico on a dare
pockets stuffed with cash looted from the Fortune Gardens
Say no to moussaka in the Socrates coffee shop
When a handsome young man in a black chiffon dress
next to him asks for the next dance say no
don’t just say yes because it rhymes with dress say no!
Say no to living according to the dictates of your horoscope
say no to the strange chamber of Venus if you’re not packing rubber
say no to scientology roy rollogy and all the other ologies
say no to alligator appetizers in Cajun joints
say no to porcupine stew when you’re passing through the Ivory Coast
say no to sun dried tomatoes from Dean and Deluca at 22 clams a kilo
’cos there comes a time when you just have to call a tomato a tomato
Say no all you sweet marines to the swallows
sucking around the American embassy
a quick piece of glasnost will get you a slow court martial so say no
Say no to chinese food for breakfast
and vodka for lunch same day say no
Let your kidneys do the talking say no!
Say no to Texaco Pennzoil and United Airlines
doing what they do best
Say no to Tokyo as the yen takes hold
say no to jacking another round into the chamber
and killing your girlfriend
because she’s fourteen and pregnant
and you don’t have a job
but you do have a .38
Say no to the cracketeers smoking up a storm on every corner
Say no to bible thumpers pounding on hookers in motel rooms
Say no to old macaroni and cheese and all the other aging food
growing wings in your fridge say no
Say no to the dry cleaner who lost your best pants
when he asks if a twenty will cover it
say no to jive lawyers and landlords with their teeth in your throat
Say no to the distaff and Falstaff and the general staff
say no to the nipple of any liquor bottle winking on your shelf
say no to burying your head in books while the days run away
Say no to putting your mind out to pasture
say no to riding the roundabout when the swings aren’t even loaded
and swinging the lead when you could be pumping iron
say no to fake sweats fainting fits and other Victorian deliriums
say no to sudden reversals, shunting of the facts
say no to my ugliness laid out before you
Say no to this and this and this:
If it’s pissing rain or raining piss
what’s the difference in a choke hold?
Whether they’ve got you by the throat
or by the scrote
they’ve got you
and the only way to let it go is to say so
No thank you, no way, no how, no go
No and No and No!

The simple ways of the Masai,
drinking bull’s blood, hunting lion with a spear
copulating with nubile maidens
how peaceful they seem
in contrast to your nickel and dime problems
and the solutions offered by your very close friends;
your throat is raw from screaming
and they suggest a low tar cigarette
Your eyes bleed and they give you the name
of some cut rate optician
your head falls off
and they pass you the crazy glue
your sperm count drops to three over two hundred
and they advise you to substitute eggwhites
your heart stops
and they hand you a metronome …
You just can’t seem to put your shoulder to the wheel
you can’t fill it to the rim, Jim.
The school of humming, dancing and jacking it around
is closed for the season
and you’re left holding an emery board
and three chipped nails
you’re about as smart as a bag of hammers
somebody licked all the fun up
while your back was turned
you are one stunned white man
looking for a way back in
and the future might not be there
when you arrive!
Sewing the wounds up
sewing the wounds up
Daddy the fun’s gone
all of the fun gone
and the well run dry

You’ve reached the end of the road of excess
and the palace of wisdom has long since been demolished
but the ocean’s pre-Cambrian rhythms
will hose you down
if you really do want to be pure
if you want to be something more
than a punchdrunk liverwhipper
whose bedsheets reek of the toxin leaking from your valves
Yes you! I’m talking about you!
Your sweat was once a famous aphrodisiac
and now you stink like any other chemical plant
your poisons seeping into the general pollution
alarming shoppers in the pharmacy
where you’ve gone looking for some ozone busting deodorant
to cut the rank impurity—Oh Daddy
Oh daddy in terrible shape
so shake it up kick it,
kick that habit and rip it up.
put all your tired shit in the shredder
and turn it loose!
Take up a fighting stance against the moon
and all those retrograde planets
that are turning your mind
to mush and maggot food
you need some rhythm to carry you back
or punt you onward
a spherical melody that will click in the brain
some cluster of sounds a sequence a plan
a man a plan a canal, Panama
a voice in the wilderness
humming a brand new tune
modern sounds banging like a gong
and you’ll go on. You must go on.

You must study the intricate threads of the spider’s web
inhale the languid fragrance of the rose
polish the shiny lanterns of a new red rover
beaming signals to Jupiter
jump to the subcutaneous bebop of slangy tramps
observe the motion of the snowy bat
steering by radar
toward a pulsating mass of insects
back to the lab Doctor, back to the lab
turn the fish back into the ocean
and return to face the fact that
this is a man’s world
and you are under it
instead of in it
you’re down there where the fish are
but you lack their elegant apparatus
you need to breathe, breathe in and breathe out
suck up the tiny pockets of air
drift slowly to the surface where
the sky waits, pure azure
aching with promise
grip the skyhook and ride it
across a heaven of your own imagining
where the air tastes like atomised clearasil
sharp brilliant colors explode behind the eyes
everything as crisp as a poppadum
a new treasury bill
Watch the full moon rising through mist
as the afternoon fades
a flight of geese preceding it
making a Japanese poem
and you are slowly bent back into shape
or at least a better shape
than the shape you are in
sucking the fungus chewing the mushroom
filling the lungs up
eating it raw.

And the Eiffel Tower can do wonders for your sex life
if you happen to be passing through Paris—
when you arrive at the Gare du Nord
you might see Paul Eluard leaning at the bar
and he will be chanting this chanson
“I sing the great joy of singing you/
of having you or not having you”
and you feel like you understand
where he is coming from
because when you walk beneath that erectile mass of iron
the vertical girders do resemble exactly
a pair of enormous immaculate thighs
hiked up above a tiny French dress
and gleaming like they should
oiled and supple but jesus are they firm
yeah verily they are steely, dan, steely mantraps
ready to lick up the fun with anyone
whose motor’s jumping
like the pump on the heart, pumping,
power spasms jolting the sleepy beast
semi-conductors pouring on the overload
pure electricity swelling the cables
till a godless bloody howling fills the air
and you are discovered on all fours
in the studio of broken records
barking into the microphone
like a doberman recovering from a coronary
filling the lungs up sucking the sponge dry
licking the fun up.

It’s just that sometimes you feel like you’ve got it
like honey on the tongue
once in a great while you achieve a state of loony grace
the space between thinking and breathing
between jumping and falling
the split second before impact
when you are launched, you’re out there
and it’s too good not to share,
because you can’t sing you can’t dance and you can’t paint
but you get this need and you want to tell somebody …
it’s working without a net like a flying Wallenda brother
riding out a gravity storm of terminal ferocity
stroking the goat god
smelling his fur
a deep thrill like sex, or mescaline
or sex and mescaline
and then it’s gone in a minute and
you don’t believe it really happened
but it did happen, it happened to you
and when it does
you can transcend the horror of real estate
the boredom of bartending
you can rise above the body in the chair
and you feel tight tight every muscle is tight
there is not one ounce of surplus fat on your body
and the O negative blood is pounding through your veins
your skin quite free of “bubukles and whelks and flames of fire”
and you stride down Broadway with your hair in flames
and you feel like the Vikings
who ran screaming into battle with their hair on fire
and you are feeling directly connected
to some powerful vein of language
and words curving into ecstatic shapes
striding down Broadway sparks jumping from your head
lit up from the inside
glowing in the dark
planning on telling anyone who crosses your path
about the light in your head
and the light in the street
turning granite into gold
making New York look so embraceable
sexy fierce lines of this curveless city
architecture and geometry turning you on …
the problem is that such moments are rare indeed—
most times when you’re walking down Broadway
you’re just walking down Broadway—
secretaries and receptionists, dentists and file clerks
may well be subject to the same delusions
and if they too sometimes dream
of gorgeous blondes bouncing on celestial trampolines
then you salute them
because there’s no greater thrill
when the flakes fall away
and you get a grip on the tedium
squeeze your grief into a shape you can handle
and sink back into the buttery caress
of the word and the flesh.

You can come round again
you can ride that lioness
you found on your fire escape
walk it and talk it
regain the power of speech and speak clearly
and you feel wet, light, physical
you have turned the wave around
you are back among the living
crooning to the crocodiles
drenched in roses
narcotic perfumes
and in your ears the measured sound
of your partner’s breathing
as she sleeps in a gold haze
everything mobile again flowing correctly
a vague and marvelous ecstasy
you dare hardly write it down
but you are suffused with the rich earthy flush of it
you can join the hawk on his slow peregrinations
above the earth
wire yourself into new circuits
where the blood flows fresh and clean
and your eggs don’t break from the DDT
cut through the plastic
and embrace the living bone
even the idea of dying might make some sense
and on one of these clear spring nights
that are approaching daily
you will press your ravaged face
into the coolness of the lawn
and all will be well.

Max Blagg lives in New York City. A collection of poetry Licking up the Fun is to be published by Aloes Books (London) in the Spring.

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Cathy Park Hong by Ken Chen
Minor Feelings Mockup

The poet’s new collection of essays, Minor Feelings, threads intense friendships, “bad” English, and standup comedy into a meditation on the Asian-American experience.

Create a Radical and Memorable Equivalent: Mary Jo Bang Interviewed by Sylvia Sukop

A new translation with contemporary allusions that reflect the boldness of the original.

Everything Communicates: Alice Notley Interviewed by Jeff Alessandrelli
Runes And Chords4

A new book of poem-drawings.

Originally published in

BOMB 31, Spring 1990

Featuring interviews with Jean-Paul Gaultier, Nick Cave, Joyce Carol Oates, Anton Furst, Tony Spiridakis, Larry Sultan, Liza Béar, Sally Beers, John Steppling, Lisa Hoke, Véra Belmont, Leonard Shapiro, and Christopher Brown.

Read the issue
031 Spring 1990