The day Thunder Billy exploded

The day Thunder Billy exploded
his blood painted the sidewalk
remnants of flesh and bone
splattered on windshields
and the baby carriage
someone left on the corner
that made us all feel so sad

The day Thunder Billy exploded
his last words wrapped in a pall
of sulfur and black smoke
BOW BEFORE THE KING
THE KING OF LOISAIDA
A royal decree made day after day
That sweet exile who bought us all shots
when his VA check came in

The day Thunder Billy exploded
all the winos sprouted wings
grieving angels soaring
up Avenue C
dropping trashcans like bombs
onto the parked cars below
a minor insurrection
that made us feel free for a moment

© 2017 Gibson Grand

SPLIT is now available!

I'm very pleased and honored to be included in this recently published collection of essays/stories about the end of marriage and what happens next.  SPLIT collects sixteen stories written by divorced writers exploring what led them to divorce, how they lived through it, and perhaps most importantly, who they are now that it’s over.

SPLIT features established and emerging writers from diverse backgrounds and provide essays that are true stories of grief and parenting; of queerness, kink, and compromise; of artistic differences and academic dissonance; of mental health and addiction.

Contributors:

Bo Abeille
Janelle Asselin
Hadar Aviram
Kathryn Briggs
CK Burch
Jennifer Culp
Lucia Duncan
Ray Fawkes
Gibson Grand
William Henderson
Anna Graham Hunter
Jones
Jeana Jorgensen
Sarah Rose Sharp
Katie West
Chip Zdarsky

I found the stories to be incredibly moving and inspirational.  Get yerself a copy here.

Brown puppy

Sorry if I seem distant
but sometimes I find myself
still wandering the woods
with mussed up hair,
my pockets full of bottle caps.

There are many of us here,
lured by men with promises.
Mine had a brown puppy
with lonesome eyes,
in the backseat of his Buick.

That dog!
Would she have traded
those lonesome eyes for mine,
so that I might know
the laughter of children
instead of the darkness of the forest.

© 2017 gibson grand

New Year's Day on Burgundy Street

Beneath the cheers,

the hot clamor of horns
that sing
like the laughter of drunks,
that sing
like the lonely patter
of bare feet on cobblestone
at three a.m.
A funereal march of sorts.

And nether still,
the chorus of beetles
gnashing
the feast of a thousand bones,
rotting
in the mud of St. Louis,
the forgotten stories of Storyville.

Further below,
lies the unheard music
your heart
beating against my palm
your breath
rising under my lips.
It is this song that braces me
against the storm,
It is this song that gives me hope.

© 2016 gibson grand


La nuit et noire

(photo by Matt Mellina) The old man was forced into early retirement at age 59, on account of his heart. Mom made him quit smoking and brought home a couple of miniature French Poodles. They were tiny, no larger than a women’s purse, with jet black, curly hair. She named them “Nuit” and “Noire.” “They’ll keep you active,” she said to my father, who hated the dogs on sight. He had never liked dogs. “Stupid animals,” he said. “Just as soon lick their own asshole as they would your face.” Despite their lack of discernment, my mother made him walk the dogs four times a day and while he resented the lavish attention she bestowed upon them, he secretly grew to love the animals. They were nasty little shits, who would bark and nip at small children, delivery men, and other dogs three times their size. The old man admired their audacity and their complete disdain for all people other than my mother. They followed her everywhere throughout the house and dutifully slept at the foot of her bed. At night before he went to sleep, the old man would take them out into the back yard so they could “do their business.” He would always sneak a cigarette on the stoop. It became a nightly ritual that they shared. Five years later, mom was dead, the cancer having eaten away at her stomach. I remember Nuit and Noire watching from the bay window as the paramedics loaded her body into the ambulance. Whenever I visited the old man I would see them there, watching at the window, as if expecting her to return at any moment. They grew despondent over the weeks that followed and eventually gave up. The old man followed suit and stopped walking them. I think it reminded him too much of my mother. Two months later, as the old man was receiving yet another Bundt cake from one of the neighborhood widows, Nuit bolted out the front door. She was much too fast for the old man. Nuit was found dead the following day. She had been torn to pieces by a neighbor’s German Shepherds. I dug a hole for her in the backyard as the old man and Noire watched mournfully. The next week, while driving to my aunt’s house in Canarsie, Noire jumped out the open window of my father’s Cadillac, onto the Long Island Expressway. The car was moving at more than 60 miles per hour. Noire never had a chance. That was the only time I can remember seeing the old man cry. I stayed close to him in the days that followed, half-expecting that he might try to off himself — as if he had been part of an unfulfilled suicide pact with two French Poodles. But the old man hung on. He still slips out the backdoor, late at night, and smokes a cigarette on the stoop. © gibson grand

(photo by Matt Mellina)

The old man was forced into early retirement at age 59, on account of his heart. Mom made him quit smoking and brought home a couple of miniature French Poodles. They were tiny, no larger than a women’s purse, with jet black, curly hair. She named them “Nuit” and “Noire.”
“They’ll keep you active,” she said to my father, who hated the dogs on sight. He had never liked dogs.
“Stupid animals,” he said. “Just as soon lick their own asshole as they would your face.”

Despite their lack of discernment, my mother made him walk the dogs four times a day and while he resented the lavish attention she bestowed upon them, he secretly grew to love the animals. They were nasty little shits, who would bark and nip at small children, delivery men, and other dogs three times their size. The old man admired their audacity and their complete disdain for all people other than my mother. They followed her everywhere throughout the house and dutifully slept at the foot of her bed. At night before he went to sleep, the old man would take them out into the back yard so they could “do their business.” He would always sneak a cigarette on the stoop. It became a nightly ritual that they shared.

Five years later, mom was dead, the cancer having eaten away at her stomach. I remember Nuit and Noire watching from the bay window as the paramedics loaded her body into the ambulance. Whenever I visited the old man I would see them there, watching at the window, as if expecting her to return at any moment. They grew despondent over the weeks that followed and eventually gave up. The old man followed suit and stopped walking them. I think it reminded him too much of my mother.

Two months later, as the old man was receiving yet another Bundt cake from one of the neighborhood widows, Nuit bolted out the front door. She was much too fast for the old man. Nuit was found dead the following day. She had been torn to pieces by a neighbor’s German Shepherds. I dug a hole for her in the backyard as the old man and Noire watched mournfully.

The next week, while driving to my aunt’s house in Canarsie, Noire jumped out the open window of my father’s Cadillac, onto the Long Island Expressway. The car was moving at more than 60 miles per hour. Noire never had a chance. That was the only time I can remember seeing the old man cry.

I stayed close to him in the days that followed, half-expecting that he might try to off himself — as if he had been part of an unfulfilled suicide pact with two French Poodles. But the old man hung on. He still slips out the backdoor, late at night, and smokes a cigarette on the stoop.

© gibson grand

In the tall grass

He lies beside her in the tall grass
the clouds their only witness
savoring the silence
savoring the warmth of her lips
on his neck

There they write their book of dreams
spelled out across the soft of her belly
imprinted on open thighs
with wet fingers and tongue
his anxious printing press

“Do you every worry about a broken heart?” he whispers.
“No” she says, “because we share the same heart.”

(c) gibson grand

Off to Amsterdam

I closed my eyes and a week has passed, one filled with chaos and angst.  I shook it off last night with the help of lots of tequila and the gregarious company of the Rev. Timmy James, who just bought a house near us at the beach.  Before long, I hope to have a seaside compound going--like the Kennedy's had in Kennebunkport but with less Dynasty and more mescaline. 

I leave tomorrow for a few days in Amsterdam.  Sadly, it will be for work and I expect I won't see much of it, outside my hotel.  I haven't been there since I was sixteen.  My mother took my brother and I there for a vacation in a last ditch attempt to salvage what was left of our family (he had left home by then, I was to follow weeks later).  I remember the three of us walking through a flea market together.  It was an especially hot day and a man stood in his underwear selling large, gooey bricks of hash.  My brother and I stared at the display greedily--he imagining its value in resale and I thinking about consumption.  My mother was clueless.
"Why is that man in his underwear?  Why is he selling mud?  Who wants mud?"
Thinking back, this episode says a lot about my family.

I continue to work on new poems, as well as the Blanche Barrow novel.  Here's an excerpt from the latter:

It was on her wedding night that Blanche decided to leave her husband, John Calloway—even before he had nearly beaten her to death.  She made her decision during a much gentler moment, as Blanche watched her new husband undress in front of the fireplace.  He was just so old.  And while Blanche had known going in that he was more than 30 years her senior, she had not expected the pale ghost that appeared before her with grey eyes and grey skin, his bones shaking like Dickensian coins as he lumbered across the room.

Here's a new poem as well.  The ending feels a bit clumsy to me but I like the imagery.

Dirigible
I am an airship
torn between flight
and combustion,
tethered to our bed
with promises
stockings and pearls.

You are an anchor,
your hips ballast
against the storm.
Smother me between
your hungry thighs
until the air
Is. Gone.

We are co-pilots
in my crash landing.

Some new poems and updates

I continue to work on the Blanche Barrow novel, which has been a challenge.  Over the last year or so, I feel as if my voice and writing style has been morphing into something more rhythmic and poetic.  I've been running with it, as I've been enjoying it and I think it complements the moodiness and historical aspects of Blanche's story.

I'm also working on a new short story to be read at the next Dirty Boy's event, which I'm really looking forward to.  I love the energy of reading to an audience.  Plus it's always interesting to see their reaction to various lines/moments--it helps me to figure out what works and what doesn't work.

I've also been writing some poems again, after a long drought in that arena.

Garvin, Oklahoma

Here's an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Blanche Barrow:

When she felt lonely, which was quite often, Blanche liked to imagine that she and her mother—a woman she barely knew—shared a similar world view; as if staring at the same cloud in a different sky would yield the same sad clown, the same lazy riverboat.  This was particularly true when it came to the town of Garvin, a tiny whistle-stop nestled along the southern shore of the Little River, which despite its dwindling population still boasted four lumber mills and three churches.  Blanche, who was then known only as Bennie, was born there and had known nothing else–nothing but the thick smell of pine and the ever-watchful eyes of the lord upon her, which were only slightly less oppressive than the ever-present sawdust.  It was everywhere, shaken from the folds of dresses and pooling in the streets like rainwater on summer afternoons.  Persistent, it fell from the pages of schoolbooks and was brushed like dandruff from the broad shoulders of merchants in their overcoats.  In the evenings, Blanche would often find it hiding like lice in her father’s whiskers or in the bristles of her hairbrush.  She grew to hate the sawdust, just as she grew to hate Garvin.

So, Blanche was certain that Lillian must have hated Garvin too.  Why else would she have slipped away in the night at only sixteen years old, leaving behind an infant screaming in her cradle as her father looked on, sorrowful and puzzled?  Blanche’s father was nearly 25 years older than Lillian.  He was a logger, simple and soft-spoken–perhaps too simple and too soft-spoken for Lillian.  Her abandonment of the family had rendered the Caldwells the subject of tireless gossip and whispered accusations.  Opinions on Matthew Caldwell were divided amongst the citizens of Garvin.  To some, he was the poor, sweet man to be admired for raising a young girl on his own.  To others, he was the monster in the closet that had driven young Lillian away.  As a result, the people of Garvin always viewed Blanche with suspicion.
Such a sad little girl.
Pretty like her mother but who knows what secrets she keeps.
You can’t trust a Caldwell.

Through it all, Matthew Caldwell never said a word against Lillian.  In fact, it was widely understood that he never said a word against anyone.  He was not a man of strong opinions.  Blanche often wondered if Lillian hated him for that.  Blanche sometimes did.

Blanche did her best to live up to the expectations of Garvin.  She had no friends to speak of.  She spent her time reading books and taking long walks in the woods.  She often went days without making a sound.  For his part, Matthew Caldwell was grateful for the silence.  Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Blanche bore a strong resemblance to Lillian.  This similarity pained him greatly and he was as puzzled by his daughter now as he was when Blanche was an infant, crying for her mother.  And while he often wondered what she was thinking, sometimes it was easier to pretend that Blanche didn’t exist.  But tomorrow was her birthday.
“You’ve got an important day tomorrow, Bennie.  Is there something special you would like?”
Blanche shrugged indifferently.  She could not tell him what she truly wanted.  It would be too hurtful.  Still, she wanted nothing more than to scream, to shout at the top of her lungs that she desired nothing more than to leave Garvin forever, to leave behind the taste of sawdust and to see a world that existed beyond his meager imagination. 
“Perhaps a new dress?” she asked.

© 2016 gibson grand

payday at carty's (1986)

braced against the bar
some for comfort
some for ballast
pressed two and three deep
like that storied monument
to Iwo Jima
where they raised a flag
against the tide of receding hope 

there are no flags here
just calloused hands
waving paychecks
at Dirty Colleen
who cashes them at the bar
laughing as she pours
shots for all the boys
who are laughing too just off their shift

until they are not
and one by one
the boys fall back
into the shadows
keeping time with cigarettes
lit from end to end
more accurate than
the busted clock that hangs over the door

© 2016 gibson grand

This is part of my ongoing series about lost New York.

Holing up for winter

This is the time of year when I typically like to hole up for the winter and get some serious writing done.  To get myself started, I wrote a new poem.

Words are not allowed here

Words are not allowed here.
They fail to capture the sun
so grateful to shine upon you,
warming our tangled sheets
in the Spartan days of winter.

Words are not allowed here.
Inadequate to describe
the briny taste of your damp skin,
kissed by a jealous sea
but savoured by my lips alone.

Words are not allowed here.
Be content with the slapping
sound of rough hands on ruddling cheeks,
sharp teeth on downy thighs
and hothouse breath that lures the rose.

Words are not allowed here.
Speak only in tongues laden
with desire and choking on need,
for words are not allowed.

© 2016 gibson grand

this city is a drunken mother

this city is a drunken mother
shouting at you
with blaring horns 
and broken glass
eyes full of murder
and indifference
while you suck cock
under the C-yard
fondled by anxious queens
with wrinkled currency

this city is an absent father
masturbating in mirrored rooms
and penthouse suites
nostrils full of cokeand resentment
their naked disappointment
in all that you dream
and the promise of youth

this city is an abandoned child
veins full of junk
like asphalt in potholes
wandering from
bed to bed
where lovers wait
in soiled sheets
as callous as
their mothers and fathers

© gibson grand

Return of the Trash and Vaudeville Podcast

I've decided to revive the Trash and Vaudeville Podcast on iTunes.  For those who haven't heard it, it's readings of my stories and poems, available for download.  In the past, it was pretty popular and I foolishly let it slip as I got busy with work and life.  But I'm finding now, as I'm working on my novel, that I want to also have smaller project to share with my readers.  You can check it out here.

To give you an idea of what it's like.  Here's an educational video called The International Bar.

New directions

If you've made it here you already know I have a new website and that I'm now giving away electronic versions of my books (you can still purchase the print versions and kindle versions from Amazon).  I've been inspired by some other folks that are doing the same, such as Ksenia Anske

In the coming year, I'll be finishing a novel, as well as a book of short stories about murder.  Last year, I found I was working on too many projects at once and I wasn't satisfied with any of them.  So, in December, I started simplifying my life and my work schedule.  In 2015, I'll be focusing on the two projects noted above, as well as the Dirty Boys Reading Series.

What will you be working on this year?