James Romberger

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the arteries
Dark Matters
Seven Miles A Second
Visual Aids
The Villager

Michael Carter

Punky Town
Broken Noses and Metampsychoses
La Marie '89
Tompkins Square Park
a film by Clayton Patterson

Crimes of the Beats

The walls were screaming, so it seemed to Joe, as he flaked the vari-colored century-old paintchips from the abandoned tenement building that would be his home. They were bleeding, too; lead and asbestos fumes escaped, a few channeling the very fiber pores of the dustmask, triggering weird thoughts in his already mushroom-addled forty-dogged brainpan... How many in these places must have died from those toxins alone, slow insidious deaths that took years, occupants unaware that their very living quarters were slowly, inexorably, killing them... But no, these were not those screams, blaring, visually incarnate in the salmon pink underpaint he was now chipping, and thought he heard a woman's high shriek amid the muted undertones and muffled cries from less specific disasters... Bing-clang, bing-clang sang the stainless steel Red Devil scraper against unforgiving plaster, chips flecking off like ugly pink moths, remnants of fractured pasts...

"Whoa!" came a startled cry. One of the other squatters had found something--it looked like a big rat skull that still had some hair on it, but it wasn't long and pointy, rounder with large eyesockets..." A monkey's skull," surmised Jenny, peering over her dusty hornrims for a better look, "maybe one of those occult, santeria-like sects!" she pronounced gleefully. "Could be..." mused Joe, though to him the blond, fineness of the few hairs spoke suspiciously otherwise... "Wow!" gurgled Raybo the punk singer, "I can put it on the head of my staff--it'll be way cool. Girls'll think I'm some kinda wizard!" "No, you aren't," Jenny shot back, "This thing's too weird," lifting it between her long, beautiful plastery white fingers for inspection as a horde of baby cockroaches came streaming through the eyeholes. "Yecch!" she exclaimed dropping it on the table, nearly cracking the delicate cranium, "I think we should just throw this damn thing in the East River..." "I think we should show it to Joe Coleman down the street for his collection of oddities, he'd know what it means... Or that skeleton emporium in SoHo... It might really be worth something, like a talisman from some native american shaman," suggested Joe excitedly, as he blew the scuttling tiny roaches away and placed the skull gently in a waxpaper-lined Lipton tea box... "Doesn't look that old," scoffed Raybo, still wanting to plop the thing atop his crooked sheleiligh, as he spit out the stub of a Camel and crashed his just-emptied forty of Ballantine against a rubble pile in the corner. "Whaddya do that for?" squelched Joe, "now we gotta clean that shit up..." "Fuck this work gig. I'm goin down to A7 to drink and mosh! Later, dudes..." Shaking the pink dust out of his blue mohawk, he slammed the rusty-hinged door.

That night Joe and trouble sleeping in the nearly dark studio; his Coleman kerosene lantern sent flickering shadows against the partially stripped plaster walls, a lazy mosaic of ancient blue, pink and yellow hues, which in the wavering light began to suggest to him a shrine of some type, a newly unearthed temple, Egyptian or Mayan he couldn't be sure, evoking intense spiritual states, even human sacrifice... the very walls began to breathe and smell faintly of blood... What was going on? Was this all in his head, a flashback to that 'shroom trip the three had done last weekend--he could remember only bare-bone swatches of the weird vision... Or was all the lead and asbestos he'd been exposed to already affecting his mind...? He tried to dull himself back to sleep with a gulp from a half-dead forty nearby. "Yellch!" he spluttered, spitting out a mouthful of stale piss, probably his own... But it broke whatever spell he was inflicting on himself... He thought instead of Jenny, snoring loudly on the rug-covered pallet in the other room, of her high, soft breasts and wondered if they'd ever make it; if she'd ever ditch that arrogant Raybo. But that made him think of the monkey skull, and he tried not to think of it.

Many years later, a crew from the real estate office were cleaning out a graffiti-encrusted bedroom in the newly-acquired building on 700 East 9th St. There were inverted pentagrams, "Ricky Kasso Lives," "Slayer: and "Redrum" scrawls, all the usual shit for budding satanists. This was the room where dopesmoking hippie Danny Rakowitz had murdered and dismembered a young dancer named Monika, then served her as soup to the homeless. They were now painting the walls a very thick and purifying white. Down the hall, his bright mohawk replaced by receding scruffy locks, stood Raybo, puffing a galois and itching his newly-minted tattoo. He laughed and tamped the stairs with the cane he now needed; the fine hairs of the little skull on its crest had darkened to a soft chestnut brown and had lengthened a few centimeters.
copyright 2007 Thin Ice Press
copyright 2007 Michael Carter
copyright 2007 James Romberger
[Michael Carter/poem] [James Romberger/painting]