Bill Livingston – 5 POEMS


Singing “Old Man River” for the 3,000th time, Frank throws a shovelful
of gold-veined brimstone into the imposing furnace of Hell, next to a

one-eyed Sammy, whose glass orb rests observant in Satan’s trophy cabinet
next to Frank’s gold lighter and favorite pinky ring, all items confiscated

in the purgatory of customs. Watching from below, as they lived it up,
Lucifer loved the way Sammy would take out his eye and chase the girls,

naked and screaming, holding it at arm’s length, running at top speed
in his lush penthouse suite of the Ambassador Hotel, coked to the nines

after another sold-out gig in the Cocoanut Gove – nude, drunk, always
a toothy grin. Their thighs coated with Sammy’s hair dressing, flashes

of sleek, white, showgirl flank and slick, black, bobbing, multi-talented head.
He never heard the pounding on the floor from the ceiling below.

And Frank lined ‘em up in New York, New York – those babes, hangers-on.
The tumblers of half-finished Stoli and rocks made anyone think that

he drank the whole bottle. Wouldn’t shake a young girl’s hand. “Some
people don’t wash after they go to the bathroom.” So he kissed her

rosy cheek instead, made it with her later that eve. And those eyes,
little blue diamonds, could cut through the hardest souls of jade

and never dull. And the things they saw would make a Viking blush.
And they toil away together, side by side, waiting for Shirley, blowing

off Joey & Peter and putting up with Dino every Friday night for poker.
They wipe brows in unison, toss the shovels, greatness never regretting.

And the view is wonderful from their spacious Hellranch-style homes,
under the giant neon stalactites, overlooking that terrible lake of fire.


He sleeps in an iron bathtub
to avoid the gunshot stares
from the angry woman below
the smooth, porcelain surface
broken by the missiles
of her awful, bullseye glances
they live that way, exist rather
on dirty paper floors
under cracked vellum ceilings
until they are old and grey
eyelids heavy as anvils
he slumbers in illness
on sarcophagus armchair
and expires in silence
she looks up from her laundry
smiles at him for the first time
then looks straight ahead
as she irons smooth
her righteous indifference
within her cardboard walls


Isle de Mujere
Mexican tourist-trap tavern
the resident drunken chimpanzee                   
smarter than a pig
dumber than Einstein
talks with his hands
plays “Chopsticks” on a Casio
with a bum transistor
using his feet
he can go to the john
wipe himself
then pay your bar tab
watches over his domain
silent, crouching on mahogany bar
like a hairy Rodin’s “Thinker”
or the stone gargoyle “Dedo”
of Notre Dame on the Île de la Cite´
Paris, France, Europe, Earth
not noticing crimson strata sunset
in the window behind him
missed beauty
perfect string of drool
hits the bar in a dull splash
looking like semen on the rich polished grain
the bartender pissed off
attempts to shoo the offending beast
but is promptly and properly bitch-slapped
for getting too close
without a handful of food
cheek smarting
one signal from the owner
he pours the chimp his favorite
four fingers of Wild Turkey
chimpy superior grinning
those yellow monkey eyes
with rivers of red
sucks it down
tips him a buck
belches and razzes the swirling crowd
only a few drunken faces staring back slack-jawed
he looks like a small Frenchman
in his tight red-striped T-shirt and Heston neckerchief
almost sexy
with bulging pecs
and hairy Italian Goomba arms
pretty girls stare at him
fantasize and want to touch
he sits on a stool now
like Bogart he stares at the mirror behind the bar
at the handsome Brando primate looking back
he thinks of his brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts
happy in jungles running
unhappy behind bars in a zoo or mega-mall
riding small circus tricycles
or appearing on horrible TV shows
for scale and bananas
hiding behind grimaces
mistaken for smiles
ya got it good, kiddo
chimp of leisure
mischievous monchichi
sinatra of simians
he truly smiles
and strokes his graying beard
as the Acapulco sunrise
busts through the porthole window
illuminating a fresh beverage
pushed his way


As the climates shift for the debatable worse, sea level rises to meet
the ankles of marble gods. America is peppered with tornado desecration

The House and The Senate, likewise. Breast cancer as common as a
bad relationship, as a Mexican divorce, as an oversharing mistress

who excites and instills fear and panic at the same damned time
the only silver lining, to get familiar with it, shake hands, then make

love to it. We gave it a drawer in our bedroom, it’s making itself at home
and asking you what you want for dinner. Go ahead, pour another one

It won’t be leaving any time soon.


Between beige carports of my Pennsylvania youth
climbing the dead cherry tree, a fearless explorer
I fell and landed, trapped in the fork of great limbs
my wind fled as its wooden grip tightened, crushing

facing death at such a young age, the fear, the pain
fighting, yearning to inhale, to breathe again, to live
failing, I battled the tree to no foreseeable avail
letting loose an anguished cry from deep within

as I stare at a daisy among the dead branches below
thinking to myself the randomness of fate, of life
how the flower’s petals will stay long after I’m gone
almost bringing me to the precipice of calm surrender

a neighbor answers the tenor of my despair, my hero
all we need is a breath, a cry, a desperate wave, a sign
for a savior to free us from the face of certain death
alive, I unburden the daisy from its earth, victorious
Burped from the sooty floorboards of Altoona, Pennsylvania, Bill, a poet-hyphenate, has been published in things and yawped at places. He currently seeks truth in the nourishing bosom of Brooklyn, New York with his wife and twin tween daughters. He writes to save his soul. He chews the fringe to keep his teeth sharp. 



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