risking absurdity
11 poem - 2011 to 2013, plus 2021
by phillip woodruff

"constantly risking absurdity
and death
whenever he performs
above the heads
of his audience
the poet like an acrobat"


- lawrence ferlinghetti

 

the red paper cup

 
so much depends
upon
 
the red paper
cup
 
filled with coca
cola
 
next to my chicken
mcnuggets


2003


these are true stories

 
warning! these true stories are based on loose lips, unshaved characters
            scripture translated from crop circles, fast food menus
            and all the stuff stuck to the bottom of my shoe
 
true story every time i buy new shoes i have to learn to walk again
giggle and gimbal, stumble over curbs, each foot a conjoined stranger
the fun never ends
            until it ends
            flatfooted again
 
true story i have no use for politicians, but that’s not true
            sometimes i run out of toilet paper
true story i’m not running for mayor of truthtown, i’m not managing
a health food store, i don’t sleep inside a fortune cookie
            true story i see two moons tonight
one in the sky and one in the lake
            and drunk enough to swim for it
 
true story a man and a woman holding hands in a deli
                        pretending they’re not going to devour each other
true story i wrote a dozen emails, all in my head, which has no wi-fi
                        so you probably didn’t get them
true story i took the last trash bag from the box, and put the box in the bag
true story i only sleep in pictures of beds
 
final warning
all these warnings may be hazardous to the osmosis of spontaneous true story
true story, all these warnings were translated from chinese toaster oven safety labels  
with an industry standard garage sale ouija board
            (caution plug securely or power cord be detached in set
            else crisscross wires fix with fork and feel emergency
            call god immediately, also, avoid soft drinks)
 
but let us not be warned
let immortal monkey gods deliver us onto random doorsteps
let us midnight snack a greasy half-burnt sunset last supper of summer
let us creature around in secret vehicles under a suicide of blue sky
            let us go all weather, all together
                                    and forget to do our laundry
 

2012

two pixies


i saw two pixies on the downtown train
i’m sure they snuck on at the parker station
            i’m sure they didn’t pay
so odd to see two pixies on the downtown train
            in the middle of the day
one spoke the language of sunset
            the other, riddles of sunrise
two imaginary creatures caught red-handed being real in the middle of the day
one says “hey, play it cool”
               the other says “yeah, act natural”
i saw two pixies wonder naked down city streets
buying apples
 
two pixies sitting on a park bench, shoulder to shoulder with the hippy in the middle
               and the splendor of his spliff  
and they babble and they blunder
he learns all their whistles and winks, the stuff they speak with their feet
               learns how to raise baby birds in his beard
                                             he learns a new sutra
                                                                    becomes a buddha!
two pixies wander downtown after dark
                two pixies in the park
one whirs and twirls in autumn gold, smacking the leaves as they fall from the trees
               exploding, smack! Smack! Smack! rainbows of rust  
               the other plays fiddle
 
two pixies spotted fleeing the scene barefoot in dirty underwear
party favors and jumper cables
                                                not a pretty picture
i saw two pixies beg for quarters by the candy store
               i saw two pixies split a twinkie   
two pixies, one with his head in the clouds, one with her feet in the gutter
so strange to see two pixies hotwire a downtown high-rise elevator
two pixies on the roof of the city, posed like gargoyles, calling all angels
                “danger! danger! the strangers are here!”
                                             nothing but pixie tears
                                                            giggle and run wild
                                             jumping in and out of each other’s shadow
i saw two pixies standing around downtown grooving old school punk tunes
one of them sings           
                “caribou… cari-boooooouuuuu…”
                the other plays fiddle

2021

chopsticks


man eating oatmeal
counts his morning bus money
hits the nearest bus stop
cigarette skinny imps with spray paint decorate the downtown landscape
a fresh blue scribble, a happy profanity, but always words just babble  
he needs a new toothbrush
and some coasters 
and a plastic pop song stuck in his head
 
man eating oatmeal                                                        
            with chopsticks
killing time
            blessed with bus money
circling a drain
            clockwise, like a city
keeps himself entertained
reinventing everything he sees
            (and women he admires on the bus)
this angel is naked white of winter
that angel is radar dead with a halo of manifesto
this angel is grooming atomic poodles
this angel is danger prone with kitten drift
that angel has a friend (but he looks scared and cigarette skinny)
this angel is black label
that angel is zodiac unstable
that angel is grieving widow of burned-out jukebox folderal    
this angel is a sugar cookie
 
man eating oatmeal with chopsticks performing classified mind tricks
            needs some new socks
and a wristwatch
            and some refrigerator magnets
but mostly a love song
            love poem
meso-crypto-lingo-love-mojo
with italian-tuned five string banjo
scribble babbled blunder on a city billboard
            but always words just fumble
 
man eating oatmeal
rolls his eyes
licks his lips


2012

muddy feet

 
its all one big puddle
            in the middle of my mind
heartbreaking state of things
breathtaking stage of things
            strange plan or plague of things
city skyline where the wet moon perches in night churches 
            and the rain preaches
pulsating puddle of city creatures
run and flee fast flowing streets
            no dry hats
pure puddle of deconstruction, where the fat clouds gather together
gangs of gray donkeys stomping down the moon
gray curtains, gray windows, pounding gray drip-drop rhythms
            deep fuzzy puzzle of puddle
dry-hump trash-dump downpour city of dirt angel refugees, i pray you a puddle
all night i sing you a puddle song
        o pig, o hog
            o swine
                        ham sandwich divine
                        square root of all puddles
                                    nose deep blowing bubbles
                                                    you are buddha beautiful
                        i sink
                                    i swoon
                                                i drink
                                                             i bloom
                        i think we might float bloated corpse to the moon
o sweet marinating meat of my bacon heartstrings, let us play puddle games
bring all the rain in the world
            ocean my puddle
give it the broth and boil of cities and trains
people and their breathtaking heartbreaking things
slick shimmering rainbows of wet motor oil
give it little licks of headlight and streetlamp
and concrete glitter
            i jump
muddy feet and mud-pumping heart
                        i jump
all my water-weight, all my membranes bursting
unearthing
jump right to the pork soda in the middle
explode like 
                        a holy splash
 

2011

supermarket poem

 
hara and zeus and little artemis go to the supermarket
 
they get lucky and find a shopping cart with wheels that roll straight
 
            they prattle thru the store beaming inconceivable delight
 paddle around in beautiful winged sandals
 
hera says how about some toaster strudel?
                                                            zeus says what’s a toaster?
 
artemis discovers there are seven sausages 
                                        in every five oz can of vienna sausage
                                which seems odd
 
zeus puts seven bags of delicious green grapes in the cart
                                    hera puts six of them back
 
artemis sings let it be with the beatles on the overhead intercom
                                                            zeus reads the tabloids
 
the potato chip aisle is dangerously compacted
                                        with too many afternoon shoppers
like so much cholesterol in a heart valve
                                                        so they bypass
 
hera likes her peanut butter extra creamy, artemis likes hers chunky
with chocolate chips, they get thirsty and look for something to drink
 
            frozen orange juice and flavored ice tea
                                    but no goat’s milk
            bottled water and gatorade
                        but no lotus seed elixir
            diet rootbeer and coors light
                                                but no hart blood spirit-bind
 
they feel like immortals, or holy rollers
            tall with consumer confidence in a garden of microwave popcorn
 
they are exquisite and statuesque
                        in the defused and supernatural supermarket light
with blue marble eyes and curly gold hair
            fresh green laurels and coupons for organic avocado facial cream 
 
in the cookware aisle zeus picks out a brand new cuisinart four-slice toaster with
programmable timer removable crumb tray and smooth-glide-no-burn technology  
 
they eat a whole box of froot loops while browsing the discount dvd bin
 
they pour extra virgin olive oil over their skin and dance a suburban dithyramb
            next to the holiday floral display
 
            let it be
                        let it be
                                    let it be, yeah let it
                                                                        be
 
in the check-out lane the check-out girl checks out all their items
 
but they don’t have any cash, no credit cards, their togas have no pockets
            they are merely symbols of themselves
                                                standing in line with perfect posture
 
in the end, they walk away empty, lighter than wind
smelling like myth in the air
            in the ultimate end
gods must surrender their thunder and leggo their eggos
angry storms recede, slaves are set free, heroes become epic poems
kraken become hollywood effects, the credits roll and theaters clear out
actors collect their oscars and graciously thank their directors, their mothers, their
various and precarious seashell-dreams of godly god-like gods
 
in the sad and endlessly overdue end
it’s all just make-believe
there’s no such thing as shopping carts with wheels that roll straight     
 
 
 2012

translated from crop circles

 
yesterday i bought a new tractor, bright green and imaginary, to drive around on my farm, also imaginary, i work hard letting everything go to seed, tomorrow i’ll draw circles in the raging thistle, postcards from an imaginary farmer
 
on earth we are hopeful, we imagine life everywhere, not just farms, but cities and zoos, playgrounds and ghettos, military bases, bus stations and churches
 
we imagine oceans and holy lands and great divides and bermuda triangles  
 
we watch the morning news, we buy lottery tickets, we enjoy weekend picnics on scenic mountain rest stops, feed the mosquitoes and perform our mating rituals, we live mostly in history books and artwork, the past is always present and right now is for planning the future
 
on imaginary farms we plant the future
 
(yesterday i found an old banjo in the barn and whipped up a little fertilizer song, tomorrow i’ll sing it at a barn dance, everyone barefoot and happy, every face a harvest moon, strawberries and tomatoes, potatoes and corn, bountiful and imaginary)
 
farming is tough here on earth, always too much rain, not enough rain, always never enough pesticide or artificial flavors, or cheap toys at the bottom of the box, little plastic yoyos, little plastic spaceships, always we must rotate our crops
 
some of us own and some of us rent, some of us collect novelty bumper stickers, some of us still make our own butter, we have this thing called a soul, mostly for cooking soul food
 
we invent the portable time-space place between our ears, and the packing peanuts to fill it with, we imagine oil wells and electric chairs and coffee grinders and millions of stray weather balloons, we imagine international space stations and spacesuits with lots of pockets for secret stash snowglobe memories of home on the range
 
(back on earth, i get the tractor stuck in a ditch, jackknifed with the disc, wheels spinning and spitting mud, all of that and apocalyptic weather reports with satellite photos of broken banjo strings, i jump up and down on my hat, then remember i can shift gear and reverse, back up and repent, giggle and draw circles)
 
everything makes perfect sense on earth, bring your beer goggles, our language is mostly a barrier, read our traffic signals to understand our religions
 
our internet porn is adam and eve honest, streaming digital high definition and leaves nothing to imagination
 
we imagine we’re all going to hell
 
we imagine life everywhere
 
at the end of the day, i imagine my work is done, millions of circles in the fields, weeds blowing under a lazy moon, kick back on my porch, swat mosquitoes, play banjo, i imagine a love song, something satisfied and simple, something we might put on the radio, or a love letter
 
or a greeting card, greetings from me and my tractor, imagine a happy contraption, night clubs, book clubs, doomsday clocks and soul food
 
 
 2013
 
 

seven dogs

 
i drank nine beers in nine bars
a tribute to nine women who wrecked me
walking home i walked past the red house
over yonder
same one i’ve walked pass ninety-nine and one-half times before
i stopped right there and thought, how drunk am i?
so i did the math
nine bars, nine beers, nine times nine is eighty-one
in nineteen eighty-one i was nine years old
and in the nineth hour of the nineth day
of my nineth winter, i walked this very path
with the same nine mailboxes on the sidewalk to the left
and the same nine garden gnomes in the garden to the right
ninety-nine and one-half newspapers piled up
on the doorstep of the red house over yonder
and that’s when i saw what i saw
the thing that haunts me forever
i saw seven dogs fighting in the alley
for a leftover chicken bone
seven brothers forgot their bond and surrendered to the hunger
i saw their teeth grow long and their eyes grow sinister
i saw mortal fear up close and personal
and then i saw the blackest crow i ever saw
swoop down and steal that chicken bone
then perch high on a steeple, seven tail feathers pointed due east
i saw seven dogs in disbelief
seven dogs, one dead chicken
and a tax collector in the blackest crow-feathered trench coat i ever saw
nine creatures total 
 

2021

the coffinsmith


matthews international
            casket division
 
that’s what the sign says on the building across the street
            and while it creeps me out completely
            i wonder if they’re hiring
 
what experience is required, do i need to be certified? ordained?
            amish?
 
and what do you call someone who crafts these beautiful little haunted houses?
            coffinsmith? coffinista? journeyman casketeer?
            dead grandmother gift wrapper?  
            i’ll need a business card
 
other job openings in my area: nuclear waste taste tester, substitute backup pickle
briner, deep sea firefighter, bubblegum food color lab tech
interim office-temp hiring manager (but it’s just a day gig, you know
until someone publishes my pop-up book of cartoon philosophy)
 
as coffinsmith, i’ll make minimum wage with a 401k
            social stratification and employee discount
instead of smoke breaks i’ll pound nails in my own personal project coffin
            fourteen square foot subterranean death aquarium, mini bar
surround sound, and a launch button, just for fun
 
more employment options i should consider: love monkey
disaster junkie, used car salesman stunt double
best supporting actor in a superficial techno-colored administrative role
semi-pro miniature golf sports radio commercial break announcer
            (and now a word from our sponsor: matthews international    
 
casket division) and i wonder what the other divisions manufacture
            lawn chairs? christmas ornaments? baby cribs? 
            when i retire, the company will throw a nice party
all my favorite people, all my favorite snack crackers
            i’ll drink until i can’t stand, then lay down in my coffin
coworkers will carry me down to the river and cheer
            “he worked himself to death! all hail the coffinsmith!”
 
or i could end this bullshit right now
            park the car in the river, between two buffalo peaks
            nothing but a loin cloth and a slingshot
run gorilla-knuckled into the wild
 
i wonder what my high school guidance counselor might think of that
i wonder what junior-grade i.r.s. agents might think of that
i wonder what executive marketing department senior survey supervisors
                                                                                    might think about that
 
who cares, let them make their own coffins
 
 2021

illegal trombone serenade

 
illegal trombone serenade
artificial heartbeats
television flickering endless shades of blue on blank walls with aimless intent and too
many signals crisscross a confection that reeks of evening news and cheap booze and old
shoes that squeak on streets too real spinning forever-cycles of red-yellow-green-red-yellow-
green-red-yellow-green-red-yellow-green
 
but we won’t know what any of that means
until dogs remember their feet
and
 (here we go again)
                                             the moon
the dream compass
the calendar stone
always the poet’s prisoner
always the lover’s lost butterfly
the lunatic’s faithful equation
(because she is a lightning rod of chaos
and my heart is static cling)
so up we go
up illegal ropes
               up balloon strings of hope           
                                             up-up-up
over the murky dark misery
over the neighborhood pawnshops
over the angry traffic cones, lonely lamp posts
over the big helzberg diamond billboard
               ring finger pointing to the moon
climb up to the roof of the city and leap
                              reach out and grab that glory
by the toe
but the moon is always fake
a riddle, a clay pigeon, a sleepy dreamer-fever
her big fake face reflected in every apartment window
try to kiss each one
               on the way down
(all the way down thinking maybe next time try a butterfly net
                                                                            or a magnet)
 
but dogs remember their feet
and when i sneak away, shameless midnight gut-punched retreat
                                                                my shoes squeak
maybe just like
            playing trombone


2021


"when the moon is fake and your mermaids cry"
copyright ziggy zagmyer

end of the world (as seen by a stray dog who doesn’t know it’s the end of the world)

 
perhaps this is a poem
               or ancient prophecy echoing thru the ether
               or page three hundred and three
               of the g.e. refrigerator repair manual
                              or too much caffeine
               too much ambition
perhaps i’m walking the block
in high tech shoes of direction and destination
or maybe i’m just spinning the earth with my feet
this might be september
                              and the moon is shaped like a riddle
               too big to smash with a hammer
this might be a fishbowl
               and i’m just another fishy citizen
               working in a fish stick factory
                              i eat and shit and work
               work and shit and eat
               and then pray for god to come and clean the water
this might be the sticky afterbirth
               or the moment of climax, or the wink
               of spanish fly in a young woman’s eye
                              and a new spirit hovering over
a faded blue buick with steamed up windows
                              young spirit waiting to enter
               the motel called mother
this might be the right circumstance
               in a misfit context
this might be a daytime tv talk show
this might be a keystone cops movie
               or maybe both
                              grainy black and white
                              big hat, billy club
                                             rescue of the whispering
whimpering mr and ms damsel
               tongue tied to the railroad tracks
                              of tv guru voodoo
this might be a snow globe
                and i should feel foolish
               for not believing in fairytales
this might be candy-hopscotch-doo-dah- mountain
               where happiness glows like a crack-pipe cherry
               where catfish swim with dog packs of dolphin
                              grapevines sing songs of festival wine
               and all the spy satellites hold hands and twinkle
                                                                           together
this might be a motor-home graveyard
               flat hills of empty shells and grey weather
                              dead center of humdrum
               where hummingbirds forget how to hum
               and drop dead
this might be trick photography
or the rare occurrence of natural magic
               behold the mighty onion
                              a gallery of curtains
               unwarp the mummy from the mummy and wah-lah
no more universe
perhaps there’s another universe next door
               that looks and smells and shakes just like this one
               except no one there sings songs
                                                  about onions (let’s go!)
this might be leap year
               and all the leap frogs are leaving this world
               to orbit some other mud puddle
                              bum around in limbo
snuggle up in candy-colored god clusters
               get too heavy with philosophy and fall down
tomorrow it will rain frogs
this may seem crazy
               but this might be someone else’s fever dream
               and i’m sleeping in the wrong head
this might be the day before i die
               and i’m here to cast the first stone
                              to fill my coffin with novocain
               comic books and last minute field goals
perhaps this the end of the world
                                                            as we know it and
               ʆi… ʆfeel… ʆfine
perhaps all of this could be or should
be or once was
                              long ago
                                                            all i know is
               i misspoke, tried to sing a choked
               bit my tongue so hard it made me cry
and i can’t see anything very clear
               perhaps
                            this is a poem
 
 2012

final notes

thank you for reading all the way to the end, thank you for letting me entertain you