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Poetry    for    the    Non-Functioning    Literate



Most Non-Functioning Literates relate to poetry.  
It exists to mock the status quo that sets us apart from them.

These poems speak for themselves.  
My method is sculpting together what I want to say, 
to break down reality and rearrange it to fit my head.  
This my world.  Welcome to my mind.

I am currently in the phase of my life where I am looking back
to my childhood and asking: "What the Hell was that?"
The process of piecing together who I am is not an easy task
as I face my demons, but I have to figure out what events
shaped me into a Non-Functioning Literate.

Since I create these not out of any hope for economic gain,
with no one to kiss up to but myself, it helps to keep the content
and approach less adulterated by the powers that be. 

As a standup comic, I have to worry about laughs.  
As a poet, I only have to please myself.

These are the poems that document my struggles as I 
deal with the world around me.  Some of them are 
autobiographical.  Some of them deal with my emotional 
response to how other people cope with the circumstances of 
their life.  

I am happy to say that I have reached a positive turning point 
in my life.  Many of the circumstances that prompted such darkness 
have turned around for the better.  In other words, 
I have faced my demons head on (we all have them) and won.

Sometimes it takes a personal crisis to open your eyes.  

So, in the spirit of truth, experimentation and artistry, 
I submit the following:



I am here with wild hair and coffee to tell you 
about the madness.
I do not respect respectability
because it does not respect me.
You scoff at my earring.
I laugh at your tie.
You hate me but pay ten bucks at a club
to hear me make fun of you.
Now I have your respect for a small block of time.
You laugh
but you’re out ten bucks.
Thank you


     *     *     *     *     *


"Hey Michael," she says from the shower,
"Why do people judge you by your looks
instead of your thoughts?"

"Because they can’t see what you're thinking.
Besides, I'm always naked."

"But I'm the one in the shower!"
she counters.

"But you're still not naked."

"Are you going out to work like that?"
she says without thinking.

Then the smile leaves her lips as she picks up my clothes.
Sometimes laundry takes priority over conversation.


Now, some of the latest...


Her anger awaits life behind lace curtains
as she puts her forehead against him
raking her nails across green hills disguised for slaughter
to suffer fresh flowers in the morning,
choosing her sense of whom in case of accidental overdose
mocking the skull of man as life spills on the floor
revealing the ceiling to the presence of stone
unbuttoned windows and a carriage for three.
Remember thou keep holy nothing 
but Halloween eyes on comfortable streets
where the wind once blew. 
After all, what is more changing than the sky
loud and mussed for a pretty dead bird?
Remember nothing but the rage
as you wind your watch for falling words.


(Note:  This was a response to the seemingly lifeless 
and soul-less mothers who dropped their kids off at my son's 
school.  They all seemed to share the same bland, generic 
point of view in exchange for living in a nice house 
in a nice neighborhood.)

     *     *     *     *     *


The buttons taste like chaff 
as her pockets fill your mouth 
with the missing fingers 
of forgotten gloves,
a deeper sense of rapture  
while you graze in her closet 
to pinch the nose of snakes 
where canyons hide from the moon.
She of hot winds and apple seeds 
reminding your heart to beat
as the dogs bark at the silence 
of fresh rainfall 
while the trees grow 
unnoticed into logs
and the final notes of her trumpet 
fill your ears with fresh moans  
lost in a quarter rest 
to bookmark your bones
on her lawn.


     *     *     *     *     *


Like a breeze too cold to move
the freedom of a solitary life begins
and the moon whispers her chronic reap.
Advance slowly to little faces looking at me
watching an old woman ruthlessly rid her face of words
as I fluff her tortured pillows.
Grandma is very shattered who loves her son,
who gave him life and crippled his bird with wings.
"You always dance more slowly without legs."
Is tenderness aware of mad, sleeping off the sunrise?
Something is tilting…Black tape across my eyes in this picture,
maybe life isn't definable for our viewing pleasure.
I might have wished for lesser gods
withering toward 5 o'clock sadly.
Forget time, where is the harvest, the suckling cry of autumn?
Family secrets, those terrible things that make life interesting,
doing things by halves like mismatched socks
that feeling of drying on a winter clothesline
the freedom of choice overwhelms me at times
and I sanction her irregular verbs.
Better to stub a cigarette out on remember?
A strong sense of something vague, of genetics & other errands.
Where is a hurricane when you really need one?
Spin the bottle of mercy, her voice on every wind…
Fall is coming, behave yourself.


(Note:  A poem about my mother.)

     *     *     *     *     *


My unlikely Kathleen,
I recall coming home from school and having my winds blown
prime mover of her tortured weekend pass
Welcome to my childhood
behave yourself is such a small space
What time-release capsules the sunrise applies 
without the orders of a loving Master! 
What else is there to piece the puzzle?
Is tenderness of autumn or Mistress, or mother
who still has what her son unconditionally decades?
What hair in her fists to punish the white of my shoes!
Welcome to her children -- what obstacles have been touched?
Face of swollen words, another piece of sunrise, yours


(Note:  Kathleen is my wife, and the number one priority in my life.)

     *     *     *     *     *


very shut down today 
stray dog crossing the freeway in rush hour traffic
nights in a row with little journey
the curtain takes a deep breath
head about lack of hate
breathing exhaust of drunken minds
and down come little lamps
pile of debris under tolerance
five minutes from retrospect
when lovely is harsh
she hates him but he matches her shoes
opens her purse and pulls out a mattress
winces and pulls back the blanket to a guest, or a trespasser?  
question was phrased like it concerned my head
hazard lights not working again


     *     *     *     *     *


The windows are raised for the long voice of a bird
who crawls for many lifetimes to converse garden
and throw lurks in her heart.
She says wine, yet acquainting my heart seeks water.
A pile of string, negotiations,
nothing rings like a bell,
no messages on her eyelids sleeping.
Nothing is but a word, lift me up to the floor,
take from me and prosper.
I, the dirt around her roots.
Nothing is in the way, try to avoid it.
Leaving the train is not possible.
The windows are broken.


     *     *     *     *     *


Who flies in the window, flowers in hand?
Who bears the scent in her fist 
wounded with grace?
You know better than to be kicking my name
Recall your mouth, so full of doubt
as words tumble out of your teeth and survive
You have wiped your tongue 
over the orderly arrangement of empty spoons 
Now the eyes of conscience are upon you  
refusing to blink.  Once the handcuffs are on, it’s over
The bullet leaves with the weapon of choice
as shame holds you in her tender arms


     *     *     *     *     *


Getting out of bed 
every morning uninvited, 
excluded by the green of bells, 
cursing tough stains 
that would have horrified my mother
whose smoke-damaged eyes 
were nailed to the cross, 
the ripping of fine paper trees
from a bloodthirsty wind 
without a name.   
As the universe obeys 
a collection of pinned insects,
another pot of water boils  
dragging soup bones through the sky, 
and nothing seems as slaughtered 
as hope when a man falls 
slower than a wrecking ball 
to thirst no more as cattle.  
You always miss 
what you no longer have.  
Tender child, sleep well.


     *     *     *     *     *


five miles from sundown your neck snaps 
it might take a girl is crying
a storm blowing through twenty thousand lips at sea
love is a balance of hate waiting for the evening train
waiting for those who wander without pay 
to heed the voice so close to holy clutter
scraping ancient caulking from the flame
what fire reacts to diamonds, the blood on her face?
a drug called tomorrow leaves the flowers just out of reach
inches from a moment of detachment
she rolls up his sleeves with her eyes
the crowbar fractures and splits
a car skids to the palm of his hand
the other end of meat


     *     *     *     *     *


To dream of apple seeds 
on pretty hills arranged for rice
at the gate of her meadow, 
a bottle for her eyes, 
mounting steeples for the texture of soil 
to cover your limbs
with a display of minerals in her hand 
and cloth on her womb, 
the stars of forgotten skies 
burn her hand in a loss of light 
as snakes rattle, 
killing each other for centuries 
over a piece of a woman's sweat, 
digging my fingers through her bath 
to squander the bounty of hunger.


     *     *     *     *     *


To be stroked with the flat of the hand
that cradles the violin and robs the fields of wheat    
the smell of agriculture, the groaning of the hills as they fall,
rocks moving ever slowly down the street -- 
everything I have abandoned hangs on your wall.
I rise as your dust as you fall down the stairs
red words playing scrape marks on the floor
that little voice out of focus splashed upon me
the last time I crashed to shore
screaming through the view of half a hat
selling footprints to the snow
cursing the flow of time, breaking rocks into sand 
to clutter a glimpse of biography.
I break before you in the same gust of wind
who dampened her sights on the sea
impersonating a stone.


     *     *     *     *     *


What purpose to crawl these streets,
to rest our heads on shall not find?
skidmarks across our eyes?
There are more ways to communicate than this still life,
another reality than what lies through the mail 
on a postcard.
Sometimes better to not cast shadows,
leave no residue, as if dreaming were enough. 
For what child is without chapters?
Everything means something else
and tonight the moon is nearly a postmark 
beyond the trees.


     *     *     *     *     *


glass after glass of days without water
not one day goes by that I don't know I’m drying
headfirst full of holes through several pages of time
touched by a breeze and other related scars
how bright my light is know so well
death, how does one escape such a gone?
beware of they who call themselves righteous
those who tricked me into my first breath
the killer speaks from a human head
nose against expiration date
teeth around a little darkness
a back seat stare into space
hiding behind a furnace
too aware of everywhere
never learning to swim
too far from rain


     *     *     *     *     *


morning rolls snake eyes on the grass
the world spilled through her flesh
it’s hard to stop a train
a hand full of moon from the neck down
too thin for the cold, too thick for the heat 
welcome to freedom, these are the rules
the outcome of chance 
and other acts of devotion 
driven by hunger 
anywhere near distant
unworthy of her pleasure
or the shackles on her feet
too much ennui in her eye
a middle child alone in the crowd
never taunt the hunted, never look away
another unsanitary smile
deep breath fading to blue
a brisk beating so I may be left free to dance
and sign my name in chalk
as I leap from the bridge
and enter her thus
with nothing to bear but false witness
a new day, a short piece of time
another installment on the loan of life
only to be returned by six
to the hand that smells like a fist
thanking God for the stunning blow
we are about to receive 


     *     *     *     *     *


Embrace your shame 
as life pastes recognition to your eyes
with whatever strength the moon is food,
one more petitioner of unlimited blood.
What hooks are unfastened in unstable eyes
licking poetry from the floor of your tormented mother!
What time the wind blew is no longer ashes.
Her cold creeping fistful of hair
hurt you less than the neighborhood kids 
who dishonored you so long ago… 
yet, changing the locks while they’re gone, 
they come back banging on the mountains.
Please deposit a quarter 
for another three minutes of absolution. 
You look good in those eyes, confined to hope,
and remember this 
as a handful of collision cradles your head,
the helmet law does not apply
to pedestrians.


     *     *     *     *     *


the room is an empty snowfall
a woman dressed in comfortable streets 
and untraveled roads
climbs into bed with a man’s voice
a hooded head resting on her chin
the creak and jangle of utilities
a piece of carbon paper on her stomach  
blood on the unmade bed
a pair of footprints starts to flow
unspoken thunder 
she answers the phone
the frozen lake pressed to her ear
the opposite evening blowing a storm
a blunt pencil to enter numbers onto him
tries to beat the circulation back into her nightgown
littered with footsteps and feathers
too loud for a grave


     *     *     *     *     *


The day was selected for a woman’s hand
a milky way beneath her gloves
where bone meets white
flashing a wedding gown between her legs
as death tapers her limbs with cloth.  
The world is a storm too close before you.
Too much water will break your lips
and the rain shall remnants of time the way of speak, 
a license to blink, a reason to move,
driving out demons like a dog on a faulty fetch
where she softens in your eyes as the grass grows.
Lean over the rail and speak freely as you fall
where few of us walk without secondhand feet,
where fortune knocks us about, human templates
hard and tough as rusty hinges
subject to the history of each breath
as a foghorn blows twice the nimble wind     
and the morning glory blooms for an hour
like angels on broken ground.

February 1999

     *     *     *     *     *


The mornings are not what they seem.
They need a spot of rain.  
What passed as husband & wife never dreamed        
of consequence waiting for the rain.
Raising their hands to speak like poets 
standing in line at the bank hoping for the rain.
Life was too untidy for crumbling wheat fields, 
curtains soiled by dust and time, throwing stones 
at twisted bones, a testament to the power of gravity 
tugging at the rain, when the mountains formed man 
from the dust of the streets dampened by the sea 
expecting too much rain.  Who among the deaf 
cannot hear the pounding of the rain 
where blind men blush to touch the sea?
I was once a man like me, falling in the rain.
Execution by personal opinion, blaming all the rain.
No one uses the word obsolescence anymore
lost inside the rain.  To spell destruction 
for crumbs of praise as the wind falls on its back 
and loses its breath spitting at the rain.  
To move as humanly as possible, praying for some rain, 
because you cannot walk on thawed water, 
a pocketful of watches ticking in the rain.
Fairness is never part of the plan dying in the rain.
Tomorrow the sun will forget the dead rotting in the rain.
For every one who reaches the top, another one dies.
I think about that every time I take the elevator, 
climbing to the rain.  When your head hits a bullet 
you need to slow down spinning in the rain.
Clutching the walls of the witness stand
accustomed to the ruin, I draw a spot of rain.
Do unto others as you would have to feed them 
bucketsful of rain, pajamas from an empty suitcase 
wading through the rain, as graceful movements 
enter our heads dancing in the rain.
I know the wind steeps like tea to fan the flames of sleep.
A soft wind into a hard night blows into the rain.
There are more risks with a storm, blow as she once blew. 
Am I the only one with both his boots, taking aim 
footloose in the fields playing in the rain?  
Anyone got a light?  I hate November.  
I spot a drop of rain.  Where are the stars 
my big brown eyes?  There’s a village beyond the thirst.
Smelling the leaves I crawl to the water 
drowning in my rain…drowning…
in my rain.


     *     *     *     *     *

All poems on this page copyright Mike Welch 1997, 1998, 1999

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Non-Functioning Literate Home Page: What this is all about...
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