the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




EIGHT WORKS
BY MARK STATES

WATCHING THE CEILING FAN

(for Larry Jaffe
roughly to the tune of John Lennon's "Watching the Wheels")

It's been a long tour
from city to city and night to night
telling these poetry stories
hoping to soar like Southland birds into urban sky

But day after day it seems
        the energy has changed
the harder I try the more it seems stars appear to fade

I'm just sitting here watching the ceiling fan
        go round and round
getting a little wind in my face
and then the wise man says
"Live for the reading - everything else
        is irrelevant."

Bunkmates ask me why I'm down
        even though I'm living out my dream
well I tell them there's a difference
between backwater eddies & the jet stream

When there's altitude there's a great view
being on top of the game,
with my name there's a reputation
        for flying out of our shoes …

Audiences ask questions
about how I make a living
well I tell them I'm more concerned
        about how to make a life

I feel I failed to show them
the distance between hope and home isn't long at all
I wanted to teach them how to fly
        but all I saw was myself fall

I'm just sitting here watching the ceiling fan
        go round and round
I watch its wings glide quietly
and then the wise man says
"Live for the reading - everything else
        is irrelevant."

And I had to
let the blues go …

================

ALL YOU NEED

Fame. Ego. Validation. Vindication. Identity. Esteem. Orgasm.

What's it worth next to the emptiness?
Granted the universe, can't captain the air 'round your skin
THRILLS - start off hot, end up CHILL
there's gotta be something more - a higher high
                without the letdown
                accompanied by putdown
                accentuated by shutdown

Hand me accolades from afar -
somehow a hug hasn't the same effect, alone
        and the whispers of kindness they do deceive
        tell you you're alright just to set the table
        have dessert on all your "wrongs"
        it's supposed to be advice
        but how come the icing on the knife
                is red & wet?

Mo Money Mo Pussy Mo Ecstasy
it's conquest of, by and for the conquered
they'll never tell you about peace cuz
        they have none to offer
the war of take is all I see
while the greatest gift is to not fight at all
there's something more
a personal star
a private truth
a point a purpose an unprecedented high
        the ways of the world will cage you
VINDICATION
is sloppy seconds when the 1st doesn't quench the thirst
        and you know it

I'm a sinner not a guru
don't need no helium praise no pedestal raised
                if you find yourself
                that's all you need.

================

WOMANITY

While most turn their heads
into backs of necks
or choose this moment
to eyeball the eyelets of their shoes,
one woman bouncing along
sings out:

Hi - how are you doing?

Can't say I'm in love;
only in gratitude.

================

LOVE YOU MORE

Never around, even when he's "out"
(of jail), giver of blues and taker of leftovers
intended for the grandkids' school lunches.
Your birthday passed without a call or a shadow
from him.
I love you more than he ever will
but you don't want to ruin the friendship.

2 a.m. we're laying dominoes around beer cans
talking about life during the Reagan Years,
telephone chirps. He's down the road,
drunk, wanting to spend some time.
Your anger is flavored with regret.
I love you more than he ever will,
still, you can't just let go.

People ask if you're my girlfriend, you reply
"He's my 'road dog'." Yeah, we go everywhere,
get so wild piranhas look tame,
we know each other's desires before they are
spoken.
I'd love you more than I do
but I've learned to live
in the space between barbed wire and guarded compound
don't want to break
you to enter the private property of personhood
don't want
comfort's furniture rearranged don't want
to awaken ghosts of beatings past don't
want you regretting me as much as the guy
who loves you no more than a toaster
or the rug in front of the door.

================

FLAT ON MY FACE

I'd fall flat on my face for you,
if it didn't mean
dental surgery.

[This poetry lick conceived at a café,
sitting down after a feature.]

I'd fall flat on my face for you,
if only the janitor
had mopped last night.

[This line following the poetry lick
written on the 42 Van Ness.]

There's more to this romantic comedy
that might never be seen.
At the bottom of the BART escalator sat a train.
Said to this hella cute African-American woman
"This is the Train Going Nowhere, right?"

She said someone had jumped onto the track,
was probably underneath the train.

[This story occurred in real time, transcribed
shortly thereafter.]

The woman in tears, I felt bad.
Ignorant of circumstances, my joke was insensitive.

The train proceeded, a mangled backpack
& Styrofoam cup emerged.

[This ink is red, how eerie the words appear.]

There are no fancy words, no
metaphors, as train grinds through tunnel,
just these bloody words chronicling the
sunken path one life took …

This ho-ho holiday season of fluorescent ribbons
and dream-swept commercials
        one soul could handle it no more
and it fell flat on my face while I was standing up.

================

BACK TO ROOTS
(a collage inspired by The Beatles' "Abbey Road" and "Let It Be" albums)

"Two of us chasing paper, getting nowhere,
on our way back home, we're on our way home.
We're going home." - Lennon/McCartney

Been chasing dreams on paper
been chasing paper dreams
        bigger is better and more is never enough
        or so the commercial
        jingoism goes …

I'm touring like a rock music star,
six cities in eight nights, a couple pay
plus book sales, from bus to poetry reading to couch -
a little slam here, a little
greatest coffeehouse hits there,
oh this fantasy life on the road …

But the problem with living "in the moment"
is all its neighbors:
most are dullards, the rest are felonies in progress.

Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah, I'm following
a star's path on the Interstate
exchanging words flavors of the week
        and "features that got away" stories,
while liquid sun glistens in cup holders
        and glass moon is off to the right,
it's a fellowship night to treasure
cuz back home there will only be
its memory.

Big-time events to promote, open mikes
to set on fire.
These paper dreams are combustible, they ignite
the imaginations of a hundred spirit stars,
they fall to the ground, charred.

Home is where refrigerator is filled with
microwave burritos and bookshelf with ramen noodles
and macaroni & cheese, cuz home too
is life on local roads,
from poetry event to poetry event to girlfriend's couch
        >for every fan there's a paper shredder<
cuz home is where contempt, like weeds, takes over
the front lawn.

… You never give me your respect,
you only give me your sarcasm,
and in the middle of my presentation/ you heckle…

Said you was gonna climb my back
to Bay Area fame, not caring
if I got crushed -
well baby, ya lucky
to be hangin' on to my shoelaces
cuz my stature is Coast to Coast

Some dreams are written on sandpaper
I wish I were writing more "Here Comes the Suns"
and fewer rants,
like the days before notoriety, name changes,
and the need to out-do yesterday:
                today is better
                because you and I
                are here together
and confetti dreams drift toward joyous faces
with platonic rapture whispering religious names
in the final gasps before passion explodes reflecting
the glow of foreverafter …

Every star has its cosmic origin
every flower its root
we travel through dreams of paper looking
        for our fairy tale castle
wanting yesterday as soon as tomorrow

Last month a poet friend drove me by
the duplex where I grew up, it's STILL
the worst-kept property on the block.

We're goin' home / with this pome

But in the end / what you take from home
is the home you make / somewhere else.

================

WAY IT GOES

Morning fog on a sunshiny day
the cup is half-asleep & I
        am fighting the desire
to sip some more.

I sit behind you
when I'd rather sit beside you
that's the way one-sided lust goes.

Body on a woven seat for two,
mind still in bed.
Back to the future at 60 miles per hour,
eyes on what's been left behind
        & I know
what I see is different
cuz U R in it,
half daydream half star surrounded by
        lonely coldness
I seek a source of heat, shivering.

That's the way post-dawn goes.

================

THE FIX FOR MY BROKE

Like an itch
        has 2 be scratched,
there's a part of me
        no-one can see
that responds 2 the thought of U.

Like a hole
        has 2 be patched,
there's the time we're apart
and I feel myself
        cave in.

Like a winter
        shakes down a tree
I wonder
        how 2 keep the fall off my feet
while glory turns brittle
        little by little
and I wanna cuddle
        up next 2 your fireplace
2 see what we could crackle
--cuz U know,
what I want 2 do is U.

Like a drug
        consumes a person,
there's a part of me that's lost
        self-control

U B the fix for my broke.

================

BOTH PLAYER AND PLAYED
(* Unitarian Universalist Hymn #197)

There are numerous strings
in your lute. *
Let me pluck them one by one,
each quivering a unique note
rising like burning incense
        2 greet the appreciate nose
        of the cosmos.
We shall improvise a song
reflecting the joyous moment
carrying both player and played 2
the verge of hallelu,
where sounds take form of physical sensations
exchanging proton charges
cuz part of grooving is being grooved.
I pick a string and watch it
reverberate
and listen to its ecstasy
        massage my wooden thighs.