Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Future Is

The future is
sky blue and burnt sienna crayola
jagged and wild
on a piece of yellow construction paper,
a jetpack hero
strafing x’s into the eyes
of the past.

The future is
checking its watch again,
waiting on a lover
to come back home,
flipping the channels
on a thousand early morning dramas
as she sniffs the flowers
on the nightstand.

The future is
the next ragged breath
and the whispered prayer,
the next holy sound
on the hospital monitor
as he holds her hand
through the night
and waits for a smile.


That's what they gave me: "The Future Is". Carte blanche except for the title. This was another of our poems from the Red Chair Affair, and possibly one of the more interesting ones. We worked our booth at the pre-show mingle in the lobby, and looking back I wish we'd had more time. I think people were just getting drunk enough to approach us by the time they were calling them in to the theatre, so about a third of our poems were rushed out in the last 20 minutes. Ah well. I just want everybody to know that the downer atmosphere surrounding this poem can be attributed to the fact that I was missing a performance by the Blue Man Group in order to get it done. Could hear them from out in the lobby and everything.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why We Adore Cindy

When it comes to beauty, sight only takes you so far
our eyes, though they can scan millions of wavelengths
perceive the slightest trace of a smile
see even in darkness
they still close when the light gets too bright
which is why they just don’t get her

The way angels strum a harp without moving
and tickle clouds with a heartbeat
flying through the heavens unaware of gravity

It’s harder for a fish to swim than this brown-eyed girl to move you
as though their gills are filled with jelly and every scale a broken rudder
her laugh, her grace, her genius tells a story
that none of the five senses can alone
cobble together to form the definition of beautiful

But even we don’t understand this
a puzzle of a woman that’s complete when left unsolved
like breathing the scent of a rose
and wondering what’s brushing our nose


Welcome back to another installation of the Poetry Vending Machine! This is Paul. Have a seat. A quick recap: earlier this month The Red Chair Project held their annual Red Chair Event, a sort of sampler platter of the arts things you can expect to see in the next year. As a treat to the hoity toity VIPs, some vending machiners were asked to come by and write poems for them, free of charge, during their drink and mingle session. And so we did. It was a surprisingly slow session, considering that the poems were free and that all someone had to do was fill out a slip of paper and they get a poem. Alas, the poems we did write turned out pretty well. Well, sort of.

This is the first one I wrote. Next year at Fringe I would like to put some sort of instruction on the slip saying something to the effect of "We do not know you or your family, your mistresses, your dogs, your unborn children, you mailmen - please talk to us about something universal that your loved one likes and have us write about that. Because if we try and write about them we could be dead wrong (and plain ol' boring)." So I tried to write about this wonderful woman named Cindy (and tried hard not to think of an ex by that name), given only the clues of angels, brown-eyed girl, and beautiful. Next time someone asks me to write about a loved one I'll describe how awesome it is to fuck the shit out of them and see what happens.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

no title

Of all the things in the world
my one hope is this:
that we can say good-bye for a thousand years.
While the world curls in on itself
and ashes burst into vapor around us
we will be there
eye to eye
and lips to lips
the longing and tingling dread
of letting go
pulling us tighter together
like twin suns caught for a million moments in our diminishing gravities.
During the years you will not age
and we won’t sleep
because we only have a thousand years
and most people don’t get this lucky
so we have to make the most of it.
All around us there will be death –
you must prepare yourself for this –
but it will not touch us
tight in our cocoon,
fingers entwined in hair,
eyes shut,
breath caught
until each of the centuries,
like the ten digits in your hands,
have curled in, down to nothing.
And then I’ll say good-bye
only then.
Only when I am certain
that even the black holes in space
are aware
and envious
of our love.


Man would you look at the dust gathering on this place! It's like an archaeological dig all up in here! Because a broken laptop waits for no man, Paul is here to self-indulge some more with what is left of my copious Fringe booty.

So this one was requested by a guy who gave no title and four words instead of the customary three (unorthodox, but we at the Vending Machine, like Burger King, make everything to order): hope, longing, death, love. A little bleak, but I ran with it. Interesting side note to this - the dude showed up again with much the same instructions later on to another poet, and it turns out that he was gathering words for an art project. It's pretty damn cool of him to collaborate with local artists (even if they aren't aware). Kinda makes Orlando a little more artistically exciting, I say.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Live Laugh Love

Often the light plays tricks on your mind
especially when it’s gone.
Images form and rage,
your mind delighting in its revenge
for all the time you denied it today
left behind, like a pet, for more important things.
Even your ears join in the fight against you
tossing imaginary echoes off the wall
sounding the way mischievous elves would sound
if only they were there to help you.
But that’s the way it works,
gray matter against flesh
or the other way around.
Looking above fabric walls sporting thumbtacks,
outside windows pocked by dried dew
it’s obvious who started this fight,
Hatfields and McCoys
except less about pigs
but still about bringing home the bacon.
Fluorescence, neutral hues, keyboards that sound like dogs scratching.
Alone at night, when the sheets are relaxing
around you
and the silence consumes you
while memory plays a record that skips to the best part
an olive branch from an old friend
you smile
and know everything will be all right


Hey hey, it's Paul again! In the continuing saga of Tod's laptop of doom I am yet again pilfering my own treasure trove until I get some submissions from fellow 'machiners (and, as you may note, I'm down to the sand at the bottom of the trove). This one came from a surprising Vending Machine groupie. Surprising since she kind of appeared out of nowhere and that all the males in the booth fell in love (she was oh so generous with the beers). This poem represents one of the difficulties of custom-made art: when someone gives you the title "Live Laugh Love" and the words delight, mischievous, and consume, and you happen to be a cynical bastard of a poet, how exactly do you enter into their head and give them what they want? By being a better poet than me, it seems, since she came back and requested haikus from Tod and Butch using the same title.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Thanks, Seth!

The Poetry Vending Machine in the news today, courtesy of a nice little spotlight for J. Bradley's last Broken Speech face-off between myself and Curtis Meyer. Seth Kubersky makes mention of the "cherished" ode to cheese that was written for him and his girl last month in his Live Active Cultures column of the Orlando Weekly.

This would, uh ... this would really be a good time to post that poem up here, huh?


I hate my laptop.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Haikus as packing peanuts


She’s walking softly
in the reeds, parting for her.
A beauteous dance.


The mirror, she lies.
You think it’s a compliment.
Nope. Just adjectives.


A two-fer on the same subject! This one came about while Tod and I, starved for attention, tackled the same haiku theme for the same price. Two for one! It's like happy hour at the Vending Machine! And it makes excellent filler here until Tod's lappy gets mended.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Senryus and Limericks

Popcorn Haiku

Buttery popcorn
Kernels stuck in my molars
Just like our lost love

Breakdancing Haiku

Poppin' and lockin'
B-Boy's legs spin in orbit
The crowd stares in awe

Gyro Haiku

Stomach in distress
I hunger for something Greek
I need a gyro


The vulture comes sooner than the dove
Longing in great circles high above
Its breath held for terms
Early birds get worms
Death arrives on wings faster than love

by Curtis


All Curtis all the time for awhile, as promised. I'd been meaning to start posting some of the many haikus and senryus we did anyway.

This was an option we'd give the cheapskates periodically: $1 for a haiku, full poem for $5. I don't know about anyone else, but I actually found them harder to do. With a full poem, the customer goes away and leaves you alone for awhile to write it. With these, they were usually sitting right there waiting for it because come on, it's only 17 syllables and they've got places to be and bathrobe boys to ogle. My haiku almost universally sucked.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Converting Oedipus

It was a Scrabble game that started it:

Pops put down the squares for DANDLE
     Junior refuted

It means to pet or fondle, the old man insisted

The Hell it does, replied his seed, and just like that
he burst from his chair like a furious orca
trying to catch the sun in its teeth and darted
over to the bookshelf for a dictionary

The old man sighing so loudly, his breath
could practically be seen leaving
his mouth as steam

Soon the son's fingers flipped the pages
family's 1986 edition of Webster's
in a motion that could only be recognized as robotic

Countering his son's precipitous machination, the old man
reached for the 1871 Oxford (Letters A - M),
placed the gold-paged brick down on the table
next to the board with a mighty thud, found
the "DA" section and pointed down to the
definition with all the authority of a Greek god

This is why you choose your dictionary beforehand
he told his young novice, And don't you forget
who's king in this household.

The son sulked, returned to his chair,
     countered with,


by Curtis


From the author's own notes:

This poem was written for a customer named Vicki at the "Poetry Vending Machine" at the Orlando Fringe Festival 2008. Per request, I wrote Vicki a poem with the words "dandle," precipitous," and "machination" included within the text under her chosen title "Converting Oedipus."

Words like these and it's NOT an Anna poem? Damn. Lazurite, by the way, is a rare bluish gem and/or the most professorial word that any poet's used at the Vending Machine without being mandated to do so. Look at the big brain on Curtis.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Essence of the View

This isn’t working
admit it.
Like an inside-out hula hoop.
It scrapes and cuts just when you get to the best part.
Not like it’s supposed to be at all.
It’s time to throw it away before there’s more bloodshed.
It’d be easier to blame Whammo
like with those moon-shoes that bounced backwards.
Which was kind of fun, really.
There’s gotta be merit to this ending, either way,
like staring in wonderment at a forest fire
smelling the charbroiled woodland creatures
yet knowing somewhere down the line it’ll all come back.
After a while.
Hopefully a long while for you.

After you’ve buried the hula hoop
or turned it into a trellis for lavenders
though you’re allergic to them
but tough – they’re pretty
once you’ve learned to walk outside
to the wreathed purple buds
and smell them deeply without choking
or thinking you’re going to die
maybe then you’ll find me on the other side.

By Paul


Bwa ha ha ha! With Tod's ol' lappy safely out of the picture, it is time once again for the Paul Show! All Paul all the time! Unfortunately it seems we have already posted my good poems, so now I'm down to the crappy half of the barrel. I would apologize, but I got paid for these, bitches! So no matter how crappy they are they were worth something to someone (exactly $4 - the cost of a beer)!

This one was requested to me during the big rain storm, and I would have delivered it on time but Dani had to go abscond with the laptop to protect it from the weather (a futile task, it turns out). My words were wonderment, lavender, and shoes. Yes, she was trying to stump me, and she came very close. I still have no idea what the title means (and I'm pretty sure she didn't either).

If anyone wants to email me their poems I'll conspire with Tod to get them put up here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


No poems here, kids. The Vending Machine - which is to say, the laptop that has the poems - is undergoing some maintainance, so I'll be posting a bit less until it's ship-shape again. I still have a few in my pocket (thanks, Curtis!) so I'll be putting those up sharpish. For the time being, you may check this site every other waking moment instead of the constant basis you have grown accustomed to.

While I'm here, though, I'd like to invite y'all to the Orlando Museum of Art for their First Thursday soiree on July 3. Vending Machinists Trevor Fraser, Jesse Ross and Tod Caviness will be painting the air all sorts of purty colors, reading surrealist poetry in conjunction with the "Surrealists' Holiday" theme. Poke your nose into the auditorium at 6:45 and 7:45 pm that night and say howdy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Boinking in the Bouganvillas

I could say the earth had given us a downy bed
the flowers bifurcated
in the gentle approach of your back,
the bees humming a harmony
with your sighs,
but really,
we were boinking.

Straight up barbaric, with your legs
opening into a greater than symbol
with me on the wrong side
and I called you my nutcracker sweet
as we did that dance of love
except really, there were no steps
because we were lying down
because we were fucking.

Sometimes that’s what it is.
They say it’s not OK to be horny
these days, agendas lurking
under the blankets of every stranger’s bed
so we go outside
where the lovebugs fly
in shameful tandem past our faces
and I learn the right places to rub
to quiet the borborygmus butterflies
in your stomach
into a long, slow

but wait,
was that poetry?
I’ll shut up now
and get to work.

by Tod


So, uh ... yeah. All my poems are not about sex, OK? I swear. I'm not sure what the deal was with this one. Memory is a little hazy, but I believe it was a joint effort on the part of a lad and his ladyfriend. I do know that he picked the title, and the word "borborygmous" (means a rumbly tummy, basically). The girl then read it out loud in front of me, substituting the word "effing". She actually said "oh my" like she had the vapors or something. Beautiful.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sometimes I Want to Kill People

The following treatise should explain what I have done to the friends and loved ones of the deceased. I do not seek sympathy or forgiveness through this confession, I only wish to document what I have done to betray any errors that may come up the coming investigation. I have no reason to mislead. Let this document be an arc to carry the bitter truth.

There was a young woman, a snort-and-chortle woman. An I-don’t-care-who-knows-it woman. She was lounging at a sidewalk cafĂ© with three others of her breed. Long looks of disapproval to passing people. Glossy lips and airbrush tans. Permanent make and semi-permanent breast enhancement. Pastels and sandals. Bloody Mary’s and itching Labia’s. They spoke of the violently banal subjects like bad sex with strangers and six-thousand dollar handbags.

There was the God blesser. A barely restrained zealot whose emotions are tempered by mid-afternoon fishbowl margaritas and cosmetic gardening. She was a Wal-Mart widow with an SUV and leather skin. Sallow cheeks and brand-name diamonds. Little orange bibles and a magazine rack by the couch. Vinyl siding and silk flowers.

Then the enabler. The hard-line voter. He sat on the fence between Republican and Libertarian. He fought the Living Wage. He fought reparations. He fought environmental protection. All from the comfort of his office chair. He only had a phantom of sentience. Blank stare from vacant, medicated calm. Hunting license and crystal-clean hiking boots. Money clip and sky-high cholesterol. NRA patches and insulin needles.

They all passed away recently. I didn’t save them, but I could have. I could have saved them. I could have saved them, but didn’t.

by Butch


This one's a match made in - well, somewhere, anyway. The title was given to Butch by Jen, our favoritest bartender over at McRaney's Tavern. As is obvious, she is not to be fucked with. The fact that she calls Butch "Bruiser" is testimony to the fact that he was just about perfect to write this one.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

She Drank, She Did

From me, no less.
     My cup
Special as she was
     Shinier than the beach bum
         flotsam and former
         stripper pole flagellators
     who fling themselves against me.
Shinier even without
     her clout;
Without the man and diamonds
     draped along her chest.
She pressed
     into wet sand
Man pressed her harder
     And her outstretched hand
     dipped into my tide.
Brought brine to her lips.
“You shouldn’t do that,” he cautioned.
She laughed;
     flicked some in his face.
He tried not to wince,
     tried to part her legs.
“We can’t,” she cautioned, “we need a contrapasto.”
He felt in his pocket
     she laughed again.
He sank into her
     the way she sank into my shore,
         the man who said, “Jewelry’s a tough business,”
         when she said
     she was all about zymurgy.
She put her lips directly to the waves,
     sucked in like a child with chocolate milk.
That’s when he walked away.
Maybe he could have helped,
    but somewhere he remembered
         John the Baptist came neither eating or drinking and they said
         he had a demon;
         The Son of Man came both eating and drinking, and they said
            “Look, a wine bibber and a glutton.
            A friend of sinners.”

by Trevor


With custom words like contrapasto and zymurgy, you know this had to be one we did for Anna McCambridge. I think this may have been the first one, in fact.

We had some discussions on cheating strategies as a result of these poems; what to do if you had absolutely no idea what the definition of a word was. I think I decided that I would try and work a game of Scrabble into the poem somehow, but I don't think I ever got completely stumped. Unless you count "effluvium," where I was totally sure I knew it and was wrong but got it halfway right in context.

Great, now this commentary's not even making sense. Anna, you're downright contagious.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Storm Free

Some people say that hurricanes
are caused by butterflies
beating their wings
like tribal drums
on the banks
of backward flowing rivers
in the Rainforest

Which is why
I am standing here
on a starfish-strewn beach
in the Florida panhandle
catching southbound Monarchs
before they reach the diamond waters
and tying little notes
to their black-sneakered feet
(Chuck Taylors)
and sending them
on their way to Brazil
where maybe another butterfly
with mayhem on his mind
and his wings angled toward Orlando
will hesitate
and read my note
“Shhhh … be still”

Maybe not
But it’s worth a shot

by Brad


Butterflies with sneakers! Nice.

This was an early poem at the booth, which was a shame because we could have used the incantation later in the week when it rained like crazy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Love is a Monkey Wrench and I Bolted

She rides motorcycles
and sure, it’s sexy.
She treats her hair
and it’s like being whipped
with cranberry licorice
as we hurtle down the wind tunnel of I-4

but then there is
the maintenance.

The garage smells like old lovers
and I can’t touch her tools
lined up sacred as totems
on the wall.
Her hands are oil and scars
and she slips the wrench
home around the bolt
and twists
so heavy on the metal
I wonder
how she can be so light on the road
how she can grunt like that
and not be hurt.

“It’s a lot of work,”
she says,
“keeping this kitty purring.
You wanna help,
make me a sandwich.”

by Tod


Custom words: Cranberry, totem and sandwich. Another one for Sandra Diaz. Probably one of my favorites from the whole week (of mine, anyway). Short. Suggestive. Sexual imagery involving wrenches. Pretty much the whole enchilada.


After taking a trip to Colorado,
I’m telling Florida goodbye.
Going to remain there
as long as I can tolerate it.
True happiness is moving on
to a fresh new start
and meeting new people.

Never could stay in one spot
or stay with one idea
or belief.
When the Time-To-Change Train arrives,
I usually jump aboard
ready for the adventure.

Don’t know what’s in store for me in Colorado.
Have a feeling it’s a whole a lot better than
what I’ve been experiencing recently.
Don’t like feeling stuck in one spot.
Makes me feel too damned depressed.
What could be a nice sunny day at the beach
turns into an all-day rainy one inside my home.

The Time-To-Change train has just arrived.
Next stop? Colorado.

by Patrick


Sounds pretty specific to me. I am surprised that PSB didn't make this into some ode to Denver strip clubs, though. Remarkable restraint.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You Rock

Sal chow!
There. One designated word out of the way.
Not one of yours, mine.
No refunds.
Here’s a few more:
Suglafeties – Grecian trombone player with a penchant for penchants.
Penchant – Stuff people I make up do.
Trombone – Like a flute. Bigger. Longer.
All this because I rock.
And the crush I have is on Bella.
Not her prudish, yet also fairly really hot yet unattainable sister who went on a date with some French talking guy but I didn’t hear how that turned out I hope he’s gay.

I don’t know French.
Ja Mapelle Stupid.
Here again, I’m hoping the do-no-wrong Rock! status will get me past the ridicule.
Let’s make that, let’s see … Sesquipedalian Sasquatch.
Okay, here’s the poem.

And whereupon the darkness dropped
Night fell like a something that falls night-like
The sasquatch of my heart was stirring
and the saints threw themselves upon their swords
and Jesus glowed with red shame when his mom caught him tugging the little savior
And night
Oh yeah
Night did its thing.

The streetlights flickered out
the pavement sighed
the grass warily peeked around the curb
and the moon waned
with an axe-like grin
and a camper somewhere,
about to draw his last breath,
is lulled by a boogedyboogedy from dad.

by Butch


My theories:

a) This was one of Anna McCambridge's daily vocabulary quizzes in poem form.
b) She was, at the time, drunk and / or punchy from dealing with Visual Fringe.
c) Butch was drunker.

Favorite line: "Night / Oh Yeah / Night did its thing." I'm totally stealing that for the next thing I write that involves a detective.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Screaming Otter

I had this friend named Otter.
Had a cold shower every morning.
Pictures of Pat Sajak lined his walls
like wall paper.
His mother had past away three years prior.
She left Otter three things:
A stuffed Fox to be placed above the fireplace,
thirty-eight years of guilt and
a house with a fireplace.

“I loved her like divorce,” Otter said,
“It’s scary being alone,
but I’ve never felt better about leaving that cold bitch behind.”

Three nights ago Otter locked the door and walked down the street to the gas station.
He shot the clerk, took fifty dollars out of the drawer and stole a car from the parking lot.

The clerk’s wife howled a final aria to her husband and I’m pretty sure the sirens matched key.
Blue and white lit the parking lot where broken glass and tire skids marked Otter’s get away.
Three homeless men stood under the street light, baying like orangutans.
Otter made it three miles when the cops caught up to him.
Three bullets in the chest silenced his guilt and he screamed his last words:
”Ma should of named me Pat. I’d been a much better son.”

by Darren


I had nearly forgotten that our dear departed Darren stopped by the booth on opening weekend to crank out this Johnny Cash song in prose poem form. I have no idea who commissioned this or what their level of amusement was upon receiving it. I like it the more I read it, and not just because it may be the last thing Darren wrote in Orlando before his departure for the wilds of Eugene, Oregon.

Will's Pub stalwarts may remember Darren as the de facto soundman for Speakeasy. More recent poets may remember him for his work with Feedbag Films or for being a smartass.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Group Orgasms

Who’s looking for a good time?
C’mon! Every bathroom stall knows you’re out there.
Something better than the beach.
    Sun and surf
    and fun and turf
    and a Frisbee hanging from your fucking dog’s mouth
That shit’s for posters
    that we spread on the bathroom tiles
    to scoop up the scat
    for a little game we’ve come to call Sanchez’s Catapult.
To even start enjoying the monotony of monotony in this joint
      you need at least a sucking neck wound
SUCKING being an operative word
And OPERATIVE describing the nature of what midgets do to our anuses.

It’s what you’ve been waiting for, Good-Time Fan.

The non-stop hedonistic, pedophilic, necromanic, pyrosyphilitic, agropsychotic, castratitastic, abortive, bestial, infant cum-swap you’ve fallen to your knees and begged your two-ton Indo-French mistress to let you get off on.

We do it with more oil than a mechanic.
We do it on more grass than Brazil’s dead soccer teams.
More jet fuel than the Twin Towers.
More rust than your mother’s ass and more blood… than your mother’s ass.

You’ve never lived until a priest has attached a lamprey to your balls.
And the bite marks spurt onto his collar.
    And he laughs.
    And so does the Pope.
    ‘Cause he’s there too.

No fee or ID.
No pussy to penis to power ratio here.
Just enter.

Seriously, you trust me?
That’s sick.

by Trevor


Trevor actually managed to visibly offend the nice gay couple that wanted this poem, despite the fact that they provided us the title and custom words like "cum-swap". The Poetry Vending Machine: Imaginations Enhanced, Expectations Exceeded.

The Adventures of Herpo

Bzzzt. Bzzt.
The florescent lights buzzed in and out above Herpo’s head,
and he sighed and said,
“Stupid lights, stupid job, I hate it all.
I really and truly hate working in this pet shop in the mall.”

Petey the Python peered from underneath his half log,
blinked his eyes, flicked his forked tongue,
to which Herpo said,
“Petey, my friend, you and I both,
should be out in the jungles of Congo south,
not wasting away where we can’t even see sun!”

Herpo was just placing the lid on the habitat of George Gecko,
when his manager burst in with two uniformed men in tow!
“Herpo my boy!” yelled the manager vociferously,
“Your expertise is needed! This will fit you perfectly!
The ferret is loose! Help the mall police find them!”

Herpo, being an expert on such things,
followed the trail of toilet paper,
out of an open back door,
and then sniffed the air outside looking for the right odor.
“There’s droppings over there,” said the dopey mall cops
but Herpo knew better,
and moved toward some rocks,
Sure enough, there were sets of tiny ferret tracks on top.

“It’s headed toward the dumpsters,
I’m sure we’ll find it there!
Ferrets love boxes and bags-
In fact, listen! What is that I hear?”

The four of them rounded the corner,
to the sounds of “Scritch, scritch, scritch”
and there in front of the big blue dumpsters,
was the very ferret that had tried to play hooky and ditch,
trying to get out of a cardboard box,
which he himself had flipped
and trapped himself,
victim of his own curiousity.

And it’s hard to say if that fateful day,
is what rocketed Herpo to fame,
but a whole line of Herepetological and Pet Supplies
still bears his face and name.

by Dani


See, you sick bastard? This is a cute story written by Dani for a young reptile enthusiast, not a poem about about a heroic herpes virus.

Oh. That was just me thinking that? My bad.

But seriously, Dani, you're a hero. On one of the few afternoons I was away from the booth, she rescued my lappy from a rainstorm and wrote half of this in the hallway of the Shakespeare Center.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Florida Armadillos

The invasion begins at the first frost
the scraper can’t eat through.
Scampering into the backyard they burrow
under your skin.
Blood pressure medicine sales boom
The sun doesn’t shine as brightly
Cars crash, they go splat, and you can’t
help that sly smirk as you view the carnage.

Because it’s an invasion
and you can feel them in the crowd
watching French acrobats.
See their bloated husks in the waves at the beach.

Slowly taking over.
Crawling their way through town.
Until there’s no choice but to appease
Dress up restaurants for
Keep ads kid-friendly for
Overuse. Overkill. Over and over.

So they can air-mail sweaters and
taxidermied gator heads back to the arctic.

A trinket from their brief stay
in their natural habitat.

by Paul


So, uh, hi there everybody! Tod's computer has finally succumbed to the days of sunshine, rain, and spilled beer from the Fringe, locking in with it most of the remaining poems. So to keep things moving I, Paul, am going to indulge in a little self-interest and post some poems of my own until Tod frees the remaining works from the bondage of a bitchy laptop.

This one came from a lady who seemed absolutely tickled by the prospect of a custom poem, but then, as almost all the mighty customers did, lost that tickle and became lip-suckingly frustrated by word choices. We really need to create a list of, like, 1,000 words to help them along next year. At any rate, my mark went all alliterative and gave me acrobats, air-mail, and arctic.

Hopefully Tod will be back soon, but until then I'll poop out about one poem a day of mine until I run out (or the other poets send me theirs so I can post 'em).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Magnificently Green Piece of Bubblegum

Smoke billows out the door
Like Jimmy Cliff’s entry to the Twilight Zone
One of those episodes where a nice old man wins the lottery
Inhale and the phantasmagoria comes on instantly
But this is far from the Caribbean’s tropical clime
Cold as hell in fact
Definitely not Jamaica
The bar’s name is Russian
And the girl behind the counter is a Swede
And huge guy Ukranian
Spaniard stares
Even the fondue of America doesn’t melt like this

Virginal in these transactions
I just hold out my hand
And the Swede places
So gently
In my palm
A plant the feel of which I’ve never known
Soft, and I cup it like an ass
Aroma of purest memory
Threatens to rob me of mine

But the color… the… neon color
Chlorophyll never glowed like this
And before I commit the sin of loading it into the bowl
She stops me; “No, no.
You chew it.”
So I chew it.
Wash it down with a creamsicle.

You can’t know what happens next.
Here it’s against the fucking law.

by Trevor


Trevor's first go at the booth. Memories are a little fuzzy that far back, but I seem to recall that he kinda threw them with this one. Me, I don't know how you give us a title like this (and words like "creamsicle") and NOT expect to get back a surrealist drug manifesto.

The Traveling Moroccan

The Babaganoush was her favorite thing:
a thing about which she could talk
for hours. We would end up just dancing

sometimes, the week she worked at the Fringe,
to avoid that annoying guy who would hawk
The babaganoush. Was her favorite thing

The company? (well, I’ve been told I’m hung
up on her.) The truth is, her I would stalk
For hours. We would end up just dancing.

Just dancing, and touching, and looking
in each others’ eyes. But then: She would squawk
“The babaganoush! …was her favorite thing.

But her mouth could not a sour word bring.
I could taste her African lips (hemlock)
For hours. We would end up just dancing

and no more than that, ever. I would cringe
forever, my heart like a winter sidewalk:
The babaganoush was her favorite thing.
But four hours! Would we end up just dancing?

by Jesse


A serious thank you to Trevor for bringing his friend and fellow teacher Jesse along for a shift. 'Cause seriously, a villanelle? In that heat, I was lucky if I could find a rhyme for "bush". I know that "babaganoush" was one of his custom words, and that was ballsy enough for me.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My Beautiful Granddaughter

Rainbows are nice the way they sprout forth after fallen water,

but rainbows look like rusty swing sets next to my beautiful granddaughter.

She doesn’t know it yet because she’s a caterpillar now,

but soon to come is a butterfly, and beauty itself will yell, “wow!”

Ambi’s growing up, it’s a sight to see like santa……….

and it brings joy to my heart when I hear the words, “nana.”

In her eyes I see pride and hope……..changes like a kaleidoscope…….shapes and colors bend,

But what pleases me the most is to call her my friend.

by Willie


It's amazing that anyone came up to a bunch like us wanting poems for their young 'uns, but there you have it. Luckily we had Willie. This is the same guy who won installment #1 of the Fringe Poetry Smackdown with a poem about abstinence. At the fucking FRINGE.

Just talking about Willie makes me feel bad for cussing.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


The sexiest instrument on the planet
besides the one in your pants, of course,
is the saxophone.
Before you can even think of playing
you have to lick it
make sure that reed is good and wet
suffused with moisture
until it’s straining against the clasps.
And then you blow
not your load
and not like you’re putting out a fire
not like your life depends on it
but gently, tenderly,
just enough to tickle
to cause a little tremble
and start a little treble.
The bars on the page
they’re breaking apart when you get going,
and the music is no long defined –
unlocked though you ignored the key.
Rhythm? Who the fuck needs that?
Now it’s down to syncopation and feeling
using your fingers to see the way
like Saul did when he changed his name to Paul
on his way to glory
though he may disagree with how intimate you are with that sax.
But who’s he to say what sexy is and will be
forever and ever?
And when you finish with the notes, exhausted
you hit the valve, let the fluid drop the ground.
Playing that thing, it’s music making love to you.
That’s glory, whether he likes it or not.

by Paul


Hee hee. Fair reader, I'm going to let you form a mental picture of the poetry transaction occurring here, given the title of the poem and the fact that Paul's custom words were "music," "sexy," and "Paul." So begins our boy's week-long summer job as a poetry gigolo.

Thirsty Girl

Twisted yarns of golden sunrays spilled across the desert sand
Making eyelids stick together with rigor mortis despair
As a whisper drifted yearning its treasure
A girl knelt with hopeful hands reaching
For a sailboat floating in the wind
Her pink fingernails scraping for the cloud
Thirsty for the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
Which refused to soften the sand
Her knee over her trap
set deep beneath the rock
where even the shadows were afraid to hide
the presence of garter-snake, scorpion, a bottle
waiting its turn
And so her whisper found its place there
a shadow, an echo
Fading into cool darkness
And so the sky opened its ears
to swallow the wind and digest the whispers
Thus the angry clouds finally came,
pirates rich with silver hid under cloud sailboats
and stole the sun, robbed it of its gold
in the swinging of swords,
Slashes of thunder struck sand
Filling the wound with blood from clouds
the girl’s eyelids opened and she stood from her knees
a pleasant smile on her face
smooth feeling of the supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
caressing her back, brushing her teeth, sealing her lips
her brown hair
mending with the twisted yarns of sunrays
no longer spilling across sand
the sound of a scrape in the air
her pink fingernails turning black
as they turned the rock
the bottle found her hand,
a trap
rich with the tears of pirates
clanking like silver coins
in her hand.

by Joe


Oh, sure. Make the poet use "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Ha friggin' ha. Well guess what: Joe will use it TWICE on your ass. (I'm still a little fuzzy on the context, but I do like the imagery.)

Plus, apparently the word is recognized in spell-check. Who knew.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Fringe Crush with Eyeliner

She was second Spartan from the left
in 300: The Musical, the all-female version
or all-something, anyway.
You know how the lights
in the purple venue can be
and this was the Fringe, after all.
After awhile, you get lulled
by the ubiquitous feathers,
dazzled by the architecture of corsets,
dizzy at the thought of climbing high heels,
not knowing what might be up there.
But her: this was androgyny so deep
it might have been whale lust
and I was Ahab
pinning love notes to the mast
with my dick.

I never did find out who or what she was,
out of the makeup and dildo-shaped helmet,
but I saw her everywhere.
Every time that bear began
to dance upon the lawn
I kept looking for semaphore signals
in the swivel of its hips.
The box prison of every painted mime
became my pants.

Wherever you are, Confucious Maximus
I love you, I think,
and I hope somewhere
in the stage of your heart
there’s a comp ticket for me.

by Tod


Tip of the hat to the sexy Sandra Diaz on this one, second only to Anna in her support of the poetry vendin'. Custom words: purple, ubiquitous and androgyny. Which means this one, at least, had an excuse for being sort of gay. We will not speak of the many others where I was (a) writing from the point of view of a female or (b) writing glorified letters to Penthouse. I blame the Varietease booth across the lawn.

Where These Tracks Go

There are vaults
filled and pressing like lovers
against floorboard din.
Within are stories and letters,
plans and apologies,
blue-black ink like veins
that drip solemnly,
remnants of memory with tangible life.

The despair seems sweet
in the recesses.
You may have been bought and sold
and had your eyes blackened,
but the receipt is still valid
and the drive-train will hold out
before the warranty passes away.
We are all radiant figures
and living martyrs,
act like gods in front of a firing line.

There are boxes
bursting at the seams and glowing like a fever
against what’s left of the carpet
worn and giving in to hospitality.
Within are love poems and the pens that birthed them,
check stubs and proofs of purchase.
They are road signs,
bad directions from a stranger
and we follow with an honest grin
and pocket change burning holes.

by Butch


I think they may have just given Butch the title and told him to go nuts with this one. And in true Butch fashion, he went nuts very quietly. Not his best (that's coming up), but I kinda like this one.


It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
The place was fine
for a blanket to curl up on,
just needed a helping paw or two
to really get it purring.

We waited until Kevin was gone
and Rowdy got to work on the bathroom,
which was pointless, really,
so he filled the toilet with gravel,
shredded the reading basket magazines
into something we could use.

Hush got the bedroom,
a simple matter
of spreading out the cat hair
and rumpling the sheets.
Turned out there was not enough yarn
and so Kevin’s ripped up shirts
would have to do.

Tye had the toughest time in the living room
resurfacing the walls for scratching posts,
getting the sides of the sofa just right
and laying out dead mice and lizards
for party guests.

We’re no Trading Spaces
and nothing worth doing is easy
but really,
there was no need for the look on his face.
Maybe next time,
more fuschia.

by Tod


My custom words: Rowdy, Hush and Tye. The names of Kevin's cats.

So hopefully this will get some more writers participating next year. I had a surprising number of people turn me down, saying that they just didn't do well under pressure, didn't want their substandard poems out there in the public forum, yada yada blah.

Oh really? You mean like this? Go ahead. Laugh, you fuckers. I am the Elephant Man of poetry and I will not hide my ugliness. Just wait until I post the aluminum poem.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I’m Sorry, But It Sucked, Really

We had high hopes for that girl

She was gold bangal’d and star spangled

She had a line of suitors 3 miles long

And her first night out on the town—

She chose Dirk McDoogle CEO of Google the most coveted bachelor around

It was quite laborious, but we were victorious applying her rouge and gown

How could we have known by the end of the night she’d become the painted clown

Dirk came through and his smile, it grew so we knew it was unintentional

When his date he tripped and ‘cross the lawn she slipped in a manner unconventional

Well, to her feet she jumped

and let’s just say she was pumped and ready to enjoy a brew or two

So Dirk served her a Guinness and as God as my witness she drank till her face turned blue

Slammed down her drink and said “Do ya fink ah could ‘ave a little more, vis is too

salubrious ah can’t slow down”

And our lady became a whore

Well Mr. McDoogle got a clue-gal and cut her off right there

He took her straight home and gave her a go in the true form of a player

In the light of that crapulous dawn

Dirk turned to his whore with a yawn and said

“I’m sorry, but it sucked, really.”

by Holly


Holly's nice enough to sit in the hot sun for hours without a customer and what do I do? I pass her over this order from Anna McCambridge, who gave her words like "crapulous" and "salubrious".

iPhone Sex

It’s in my horny nature
to give you hot, steamy,
iPhone sex.

Always did get an arousal every time
I gaze at your photo on my iPhone.
Wish I could lick the angles of your body.
Wish I could taste your tongue.
Wish I could taste your beautiful genitals.

Your face is always dancing inside my mind.
At work.
At the gas station as
I fill the automobile
with expensive gas.
Always your beautiful face
dance inside my horny mind.

The reasons why
I’m giving you juicy,
iPhone sex.
Can’t wait to experience your love, again.

by P.S.B.


You're damn right it's by Patrick. This was for one of the Fringe volunteers who, it must be noted, was really looking for a poem about sex WITH an iPhone and not VIA an iPhone. (He was something of a techie.) But whatever.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Clarissa Explains It All

My heart is like a gift
Jokey Smurf makes
and you, my Smurfette
make it explode
when you look at me.

Clarissa, I wish
you could explain to me
how much you love me
with just your lipstick
and your palms.

I could have nothing,
house eaten by fire,
car eaten by sinkholes,
soul eaten by chupacabras
but as long as I have you

I have everything that
I need. This is my breath
in a bottle you can listen to
when you need oceans
of arms to soothe you.

Clarissa, one day
I can explain all
the ways I love you
until you can use my lungs
as parachutes.

by J.


I repeat: Everybody else had cooler titles given to them. This one's from J., who I believe holds the record for most Vending Machine poems written in an hour (five). I'm pretty sure "chupacabra" and the Smurf refererences were mandated, but this is one of J.'s poems so it's probably even money.

J., by the way, has his own wacky poem blog: Current Event Senryus.


When the tree says hello with a gentle stretch of
leaf to cheek, yearning for some substance it shall
never feel, sensing scorn in your soft skin and the retreat,
then returns to elemental friend that whispers and consoles,

then you miss the touch of living thing gone green,
and walk across the oak floors of your favored space,
the home you found and saved from leveling,
gives up the grit to barren feet shuffling

to sleep,

where you dream of loves you’ve never had
in forested terrain you’ve never seen,
waters crystal chiming through the stone,
and then wake weeping, lost to morning light.

by Naomi


Possibly the only one Naomi got to do in her all-too-brief shift at the Fringe. I like the fact that people weren't afraid to do melancholy stuff like this, even with the distractions of people in bathrobes dancing to reggaeton. Sigh. We so sensitive.

What the hell did you get for custom words on this, Naomi? Looks like you had carte blanche.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Pint

“Innkeep, bring seven more of your darkest bitter.
And spill none.
We are weary
and the traildust will does not wash off by will alone.”
The sly troubadour nattered aloud.
And entered a raven-haired maiden
whose skin was rosy.
Her contours desirable
with deep poitrine
deep unfathomable depths
and coal soot darkened her eyes,
as if she was a lady of the night,
and the troubadour, being cloy and with a wife far gone from the tavern,
planned a rendezvous
which unfolded in his mind
like intricate tapestry
and the halls within his intellect lit up
with bright schemes
and spurious foundations.
He saw his saddle bent with the maiden’s limp frame
and his bed full of her yawning curves.
He slipped out of his seat, in his mind, and fell upon her with all of his charm
and suspect guile
and tamed her with a lash of his tongue.
He projected his strategy
like shadowplay
up against the reverse of his eyelids
and watched his the plot unfold.
Every eventuality carefully penned
in tendrils of thought
slithering from ear to ear,
The troubadour was ready to claim his prize.
And he stood in one great leap.
Sending an ocean of pints across the inn floor.
So he mourned for seventy days.
in a room alone.

by Butch


I believe this was one of the many tortures given to us by Visual Fringe honcho and poetry addict Anna McCambridge, who delighted in throwing us words like "poitrine".

This is also proof that Butch would rather have been role-playing that week.

Debit Daunter

I always know
from the curt and desperate sound of the ring
when he calls
and I let my voice go light
as the letters he writes me:

“Ma’am,” he says,
“I’d like to talk to you
about options for erasing your debt.”

“Oooh,” I say.
“I’d like that.”

He’s not used to this kind of eccentricity
so he pauses before he tells me
about interest rates,
payment plans.
And I tell him how much I wouldn’t mind
being in his debt,
a man with a mind for hard numbers,
I’m sure he could keep things straight.
I ask him if his legal vocabulary
has room for words like
hell, luxolicious.
I ask if his interest rates
are going up.

Then I hang up
and wonder what the rest of his day
must be like.
He owes me.


One of mine, and I actually know the custom words I got for this one:
(and yes,) luxolicious

I was always tickled how people really struggled to come up with their 3 words. I mean, agonized over that shit. I think a lot of people were in "screw it" mode by the third one, and it would either end up being something generically poetic like "love" or way out in left field like "luxolicious".

Your Mother Knows

She’s been stepping around it so long
she hardly notices anymore
bright, shiny, and lit from below
like a pagan altar
bigger than a bread box
yet all but invisible
a hysterical scatoma

And always the spoiler
the embarrassing Republican
in the family woodpile
breath reeking
of box wine and brimstone
tight in the pants
like a wide-stanced fundamentalist
in a public bath

“She’s a lesbian,”
A juicy tidbit
forked with relish
at a family gathering
a wedding
or maybe the christening
of someone else’s daughter’s daughter

“Fuck you,” she says
sweet and senescent
snuffing Hiroshima
like the stem of her wine glass
held between her thumb and forefinger

Your mother knows.

by Brad


I think I can guess on at least one of the custom words. I remember Brad writing this for the nice lesbian couple, and wish I could have been there when they got it.

It's beginning to occur to me that everybody else got the really juicy titles, goddammit.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Afternoon Delight (and prologue)

Well, here we are. A bit of background for anyone reading this who wasn't directly involved: during the 2008 Orlando Fringe, we did this. The results were just over 100 poems, written in about 20-25 minutes on average. We can therefore be forgiven for about 1/3 of them. Customers gave us the title as well as 3 words to be used anywhere in the poem. On most occassions, I wouldn't be able to tell you what those words were. It was confusing enough writing these things, much less keeping tabs on those little order forms. Next year, I'll bold the words like we were able to do in a minority of cases (let's hear it for Paul's relative sobriety.) On most of them though, it's your guess (or if you're author, feel free to leave a comment and tell me).

Anyway. If I have my druthers, they're all going up here. The good, the bad and the toilet paper. The subjects, as you might imagine from poems written at a theater festival, range from sex to love to money. Usually in that order. So let's start with the former, from the booth's own Barry White, Paul:


Afternoon Delight

Let me take you away from here
the way the wind is blowing through your clothes
makes me think about what I could be doing

Hands slipping on damp skin
fingers clutching hair
both long and short
legs rubbing in ways you usually buy toys for
breath rushing so fast that your voice turns to honey
sheets tossed away
box springs strained
just because we won’t escape gravity doesn’t mean we can’t try

The wet repetition of slap slap slapping skin
rhythmless, without time
maybe we’ll trick reality and fall out of it
existence marked only by the scratches on my back
saliva slicked in forbidden crevices
lips suffused with anticipation
hearts near explosion
but before they get the chance
we do

Sliding back into the world
finding ourselves on the floor
a ribbon wrapped around your wrist
the quick gasps that sound like laughter
you start feeling buttons from jeans pushing into you
and a chill from evaporating sweat
So sticky it’ll take several Q-tips to clean

And then I’ll grab some bread
with a grin on my face
and offer you a sandwich
It’s almost dinner time now
we’ll need fuel for later.