something in the way

Everyone gone down to the river mad around here. Dull Conrad shit. Yet appalling nonetheless...”


by kurt eisenlohr



Receiver shot.

Can’t get a goddamned thing on this radio in my head. Connection gone. White noise…

I am reduced to typing up laundry lists in place of poems, passing them off as poems.

Gives us yer 20 best aches and pains straight down the page in rows of hooded crows all cawing,” say the man posing as Agent (quite aglee) while the Writer himself sinks like a stone tied to the cheery Titantic.

Oh well, all in a days hustle and con,” he say. “We’re in the self-delusion racket, my boy….”

So now I type this letter home to Mother, trying to appear— to the agent and myself–the WRITER AT HIS MACHINE. Figure one day the illusion may drool into reality, or vice versa. We Creative Types gotta keep up appearences. Besides, the Agent is literary and cops ten percent of every experience I cage good or bad. So I toss him rubber bones now and then to keep us both in the poorhouse.

A drowning man take down those closest to him. Good healthy American gimmic.

–Woke up 15 minutes ago. Couldn’t sleep last night. Horrible darkness fill the room, crush me. Dreaming words and paintings everytime I do manage to doze. Shake myself awake to put an end to it. Can’t describe these dreams with words, they are compulsive dreams–like a savant counts names in a phone book then gets erect trying to memorize them–starts as a game–after awhile can’t stop. Pretty soon he’s counting cars on the freeway recording the plates, counting cracks in the sidewalk, the click of each hour while staring at the clock afraid to miss it—he gotta hunch it all fits—the hours in each day, the days of each year, the years of each decade strewn throughout the centuries since the primordial crawl of time–BANG!–then reduces the whole shithouse to seconds, half-seconds, quarter-seconds, breaks it down to the bone strips it bare then goes for the marrow the very heart of time–till all he can do is babble abstract fractions to harried passersby–Stands in the torn jockey shorts at the corner of Clifton and Belmont Wealthy and Division any corner everywhere posture frantic pale picking sore--he can’t stop.

In the dream I will write one sentence could be any sentence over and over and over for what seems hours days months years–Time without end–click click click all the way thru blue-black eternity–or I will be at the JOB on the grill stuffing meat into the endless ugly mouths–everything factory parts, non-stop, pure unalterable PRODUCTION–Till my circuits snap overload and melt–wires connectors flashing into the flame the body staggers brainless–eyes popped blind blue smoke hands groping for typewriter keys paint brushes the knife to lather mayo cuts throats turn burgers punch clocks in endless succession–


About then I trash myself awake, throw off the sheets of cold sweat as the wife wife mutters “Fourth time this week what the hell!” Stumble into roach filled kitchen light a cigarette–sit in front of the typewriter stare at it…hands locked in the air, limbo… punch a few lines of gibberish, give it up…stare at the clock…wonder how I will perform at WORK, the daily decathlon….

Fuck it, I’m 15 minutes out the gate, the dark pocket of that—hung humped and harnessed–So forget it already.

Mailed poems and stories–old laundry lists, dead skin, blue clippings of woe and facial hair–to 24 different magazines this week. $30 in stamps, another $10 to the zerox machine, $12 for bullets to make this typer bang and of course big TIME investment. Lotta shit just to put some words in the mail. Now I sit back and await the results–UNBEARABLE SILENCE. Many times, I never hear anything, as if I’d never sent anything, tossed it into a yawning void. Always enclose a SASE too. Its maddening. Maybe like Rimbaud I give it up and take to gun-running instead.

Why couldnt I been born with a chemical mix make me wanna become a pig farmer a bankteller a plumber with a finger in proctology got half a credit nightschool under his belt–Foreign Languages–why not a real estate agent?

Always gotta do things the hard way,” say the Roman drunk at Christ whoring his own cross–Hammer and Nail–“Oughta kick back and let yer followers do the grunt work. Whatcha think fame’s for? Better yet, ya might consider taking a chainsaw to that fucking thing–then go after the flock. Biggest congregation of riff-raff I ever see let alone stand still for. Wake up, son–the Books a bloodbath gonna stain the world rotten. And poorly written ta boot, Pulp of the Month Club job. Get yourself a more dignified line-a work!”


Come home from the JOB and see X standing on the lawn screaming at one of her cats. The cat had had the gall to fuck up and wander after a bird. ” YOU CROSSED THE STREET! I TOLD YOU NEVER TO CROSS THE STREET! WE’VE TALKED ABOUT THIS! WEVE GONE OVER THIS OVER IT A HUNDRED TIMES! ” Smacks the stricken cat upside the head–Neighbors watching, turning away in a mixture of horror and embarrassment–like walking in on Fred Rogers masturbating to child pornography– X oblivious. “WE’VE DISCUSSED THIS!” Turns sees me coming up the drive says “I’VE TOLD HER! YOU SAW ME TELL HER!” Grabs the cat by the tail. Storms into the $90,000 house….

No literary exaggeration. You can check with Agent on this. He has witnessed same type of behavior exact—wife too.

Everyone gone down to the river mad around here. Dull Conrad shit. Yet appalling nonetheless. No class–one thing I don’t stand for. Man of my caliber got a right to surround himself with finer souls. X and her babies. Christ writhing on the cross. Too much, brother. Too much.

Then there’s the freak at work–other side of the bar–says How can we get this country on its feet again if we ain’t even got the smarts ta run the niggers out? And Portland Oregon almost 90 percent white–pale blue eyes blinking down from the mount–WELCOME TO HONKYTOWN–an actual headline last month. Now this isn’t Joe The White Trash Rivet-Driver riling from the top of a beer bottle during Happy Hour. This is Gary The Eighty Grand Willamette Valley Computer Geek on his lunchbreak spilling bile between calls on a cellular phone–“Get me Stalin goddamit!” And every day my boss tell me “Somebody say HEY ASSHOLE GET ME A BEER you smile say YES SIR and get that man a beer.” Boss 24 years old. Good company–working the Straight Angle, the rut to grey retirement–Hollywood eye see dead fingers crawling condo–sucking the ass of every Jack anyone if necessary, and of course it is, on the road to normal, where this cat’s sailing. And now Gary The Eighty Grand wanna run out the queers too. Then women and all the other types. In no particular order. And what does that trumpet sound?


It’s lunatics like this that run the planet now, the gibbering baboon show like lice on caged vulvas in a zoo. And such an unmitigated bore. Horrible, yes, but the programming is putting us to sleep. Haven’t we seen this puppet show before?– Ancient Rome Christians thrown to the lions Nero grinning thru the flames–Dante’s Inferno–Wounded Knee–The Wonder Years–Hitler shoveling Jews into socially condoned ovens of history and hell kids tearing the wings of flies age 11 and bored–change the channel its all tired reruns. High time we penned a new script to work from. Haven’t we ground this dirty little Broadway number into dust already? Even the yokels are getting sick of it–Hillbilly say to the farmers daughter “Fuck it we go see CATS” –Moonshine dribbles down chins in the dark its all pretty picture maybe nobody die—SINGING IN THE RAIN—OAKLAHOMA—SOUTH PACIFIC–lay down their yen get SCARFACE instead–Card trick, slight of hand–Cats got tired of dancing around happy all the time went crazy on subway knives flashing gets drawn claws out–killed 34 priests caught in flagrante on the A train–Bondage Car–“All right, boys, book em and take em down South. These ones got no civility even dead.”

The whole world BIGTOWN now–Modern Moving Jet-Propelled–Accelerated Babylon–Anything goes. And it goes all day all night all ways all at once. Even the Prez Get writ up begging blowjobs. And the Watchdogs point a finger to Kurt Cobain as an example of decadence and where it leads–“One troubled boy, say the God-Eye of Media. And a junkie ta boot! Set a bad example for the youth might spread like wildfire.”


Fire up the presses, the boy done killed himself! We got magazine covers need getting out!”

Something in the way, indeed.

“IM A NEGATIVE CREEP! IM A NEGATIVE CREEP! IM A NEGATIVE CREEP!” —And Everybody must get stoned say the mayor of Salem to the drowning witch.

On a brighter note: The Government Has now Banned the Carrying Of Spears.

(Sound of N.R.A. members fingering the trigger)

If there’s a Messiah in the house, please remain seated.


Originally published:
Issue Five
January 2001


Kurt Eisenlohr is a painter, writer and bartender living in Portland, Oregon. In addition to illustrations contributed to all issues of Smokebox his poetry and fiction has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Asylum, Verbal Abuse, River Styx, Another Chicago Magazine, Cokefish, Decoy, Way Station, and STOVEPiPER. His chapbook, Under Hand and Over Bone was published by Alpha Beat Press in 1994.

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