The Gray Side of the Moon
Dorothy walks into Rainbow Grocery
wearing her ruby red Doc Martens.
I’m looking for the good witch,
she yells out.
raises her hand
or points to someone.
I watched The Wizard of Oz on a black and white TV when I was young.
I had no idea Dorothy’s world became color once she landed in Oz.
It was long before people like us had VCRs.
Either you watched it when it came on once a year,
or you missed it.
At the age of fifteen,
I knew what Uzi fire sounded like,
but I had no idea what it was like to kiss a girl.
There was a weird window of time in the ’80s
when the gangs were better armed than the cops.
The fistfights stopped and the shootouts began.
Breakdancers traded in linoleum squares
for crack corners,
the windmills and headspins
gave way to jump-ins and drive-bys.
turned the streets
into a pinball game of teenagers running for cover.
Glass broke and people screamed
like the city went on multiball mode.
You wouldn’t always see who was shooting,
you just ran in the direction everyone else did.
I hid where I could,
behind cars and trash cans,
running into the subway when it was close.
I wanted out.
I wanted to leave Boston,
go back home to Arkansas
where my friends
were building hot rods one piece at a time,
and dating girls who liked fast cars and drank wine coolers.
When you’re a teenager,
it’s easy to feel like you’re going to die a virgin.
But during that time of my life,
I was really worried about the dying part.
I made it back to Arkansas.
I was shell-shocked
from years of street evangelism
and the violence that came with it.
None of it made sense anymore.
I quit the church for the trailer park.
Someone made me a Jack and Coke.
I looked in the red plastic cup
and saw a tornado.
I heard Dark Side of the Moon
for the first time on cassette.
Same goes for The Wall and
Wish You Were Here.
Later the first guy I knew with a CD player had a copy of Animals,
and I heard that for the first time coming down from an acid trip,
alone in his living room while he fucked his girlfriend down the hall.
I couldn’t tell if it was their sounds
or the sounds on the album
or the sounds in my head
and I’m still not sure.
if you put on a DVD of The Wizard of Oz and turn the sound down,
and put on a CD of Dark Side of the Moon at the same time,
they totally sync up.
that if you look in the trees in the enchanted forest,
you can see one of the stagehands
who hung himself from one of the prop trees.
that buddy ebsen was supposed to be the tin man
but he was allergic to the makeup.
if you tattoo your face
you automatically get a GA check.
if you smoke heroin instead of shooting it
you won’t get a habit
live fast die young
leave a good looking corpse.
The tornado set me down in California,
a world of color compared to my monotone childhood.
Jr. College was grad school for young drug addicts,
an accelerated program for learning multiple ways of getting fucked up.
I balanced my time between cocaine, mushrooms, LSD, and 100 proof vodka.
At the end of the semester I got my grades from the school in the mail.
I had forgotten about that part,
the whole going-to-class thing.
I found poets
who shot dope in the bathrooms,
smoked speed in the alley,
and smoked pot like it was legal.
They were brilliant sometimes:
scarfaced prom queens
glass pipe prophets
When I heard a good poem
color came to my life briefly.
There were no camera phones
No Flip Minos
If it was happening
and you weren’t there
you missed it.
Fuck Dorothy for wanting to go home.
Why did she want to go back to her black and white world?
What was she going back to?
She found the land of color and wanted out right away.
The tornado was what saved me.
Laying in my bed
coming down off coke,
my heart beating like a bat’s wing trapped inside me,
the euphoria gone,
I comforted myself in the idea
that I was too far from home to go back.
the American Tornado dropped Dorothies into San Francisco.
We were the unwashed and faded-gray version of the Lollipop Guild,
greeting them upon arrival.
This is for the little girl
who would rather have a meth problem
than a weight problem.
This is for the little boy
who tattooed his face
so no one would touch him that way anymore.
This is for every little boy and girl
who stood between home and a tornado,
weighed the options,
and took a chance on the twister.
AIDs took the first friends I made,
in a synchronized fashion,
one after the other,
diving into nowhere like Busby Berkley swimmers.
From there it was a variety show of ODs, suicides, and freak accidents
The lion wanted courage
The scarecrow wanted a brain
The tin man wanted a heart
Rachel wanted fake tits.
people gave her shit
like it was different from the tattoos
and the piercings everyone else got.
They were perfect.
The wizard knew what he was doing
when he slipped those in.
I never met a lion
but a met a kid with cat whiskers tattooed on his face
I never met a scarecrow
but I met people who shot speed and talked conspiracy all night
I never met a tin man
but I saw junkies frozen mid-walk in a statue nod
Fake Tit Haiku #1
I don’t care they’re fake
Whoever made them: brilliant!
Fake or not, awesome
Fake Tit Haiku #2
I loved your fake tits
fake or real they are still tits
who does not love tits?
Fake Tit Haiku #3
Saline packets too fancy
I’ll take frozen pea bags
The room spun above me.
I was back in the tornado,
spun by the winds of whiskey and bad decisions.
I could see the bottom of the bottle through the glass of the coffee table top.
All the bourbon that remained was one halo mockingly over my head.
The store was about to close and I was out of liquor.
Too drunk to stand up
but not drunk enough
to stop giving a shit.
I lost my faith in whiskey right then,
the same way I stopped believing in God on that hot night in Arkansas.
There would never be enough whiskey in the bottle again.
A river wouldn’t satisfy me.
I was no longer going anywhere or from anywhere.
It was just me and the swirl.
Rachel told me to leave the house
go somewhere and dry out.
I trusted her
I trusted those fake tits
They were at once,
a lie and the truth.
A perfect duality.
The house fell on Rachel.
She caught strep throat,
it turned into a staph infection, and she was dead three days later.
Rachel died two weeks after I left the punk house.
At her services,
staggering drunks, and
stumbled past to give respects.
I held out for a while
went to my favorite bar
I said make it be tomorrow
and drank glass after glass of twister-drinks
one last time.
The first AA meeting I went to
I saw all these people from my past
you were there
and you were there
and you and you and you
kicking dope by candlelight
in the squat.
are a mess of in pick-marks
and homemade tattoos.
An abscess stands in the crook of her arm
like a leaning barn by the side of the road
she wants to get it checked out
but is afraid they’ll amputate it.
She holds Toto close and cries,
I just want to get back to Kansas.
Cat-Whisker-Face looks up from his guitar.
Shit, girl, he says,
you’re on the wrong side of Portrero Hill.
This poem originally appeared in The Rumpus.
Editor’s Note: In celebration of Borderline turning 3 at the end of 2013, we wanted to celebrate by featuring one of our all-time favorite persona poems, and Bucky Sinister was gracious enough to give us the go-ahead to do so. A million thanks to him for helping us commemorate this milestone with such a soul-shaking piece.