Sunday, May 22, 2016

Outsider Poetry: Poetry By Anna Keeler

Poetry by Anna Keeler

Sing(Sing) Me To Sleep

I make a cell out of sage bundles
And ashtrays
And built my insanity on a platform
Of serenity--
A word that has never rented
Any space in my vocabulary
But still addresses me like I’m the management.  

These walls wear the sincerity of a real home,
But its walls are really paper
And bite my lip when the flames
kiss their foundation.

How easy was it to abduct me from the corner of
You’re not smart enough to be autistc
At the intersection of  
Your pretty ears are too small to hear voices?
Was it less bothersome to feed me rat turds
Instead of klonopin
And revoke the card that could give me some repose?

Because I know and you know
That in my life there was no such thing,
But that didn’t stop anyone else
from ripping the skin off the universe.
Y’all put on the eyes and smile of the cosmos
And deliver me
In the name of My Best Interests

And tell yourself that this prison
Is too introverted for you to ever understand;
Because it was roomy enough and it was comfy enough
And at least they fed me once in awhile.

You don’t see the vociferation
Punching its way through the drywall
And demanding that i come tend to its issues.
Because I was too dumb and too small
And too this and too that
Do this, girl, do that
Until tranquility was an abstract group of letters.

I learned to make the cell

Instead of letting it make me
And found the bundle of harmonious
Inevitable death left me with pillows and bedsheets.

The electric chair doesn’t lurk in the corner,
It loiters,
But I’m not afraid of
The teeth it whittles from soap bars--
Because smog can turn white it condensates long enough.

It won’t cuddle, but it hums me to sleep.

Return or Exchange

The man who created me was too cruel to be an artist
And threw all five of my senses into a kaleidoscope. 
I taste numbers
And smell colors
And hear supernovas dying 
long before their light burns out.

With the precision of a rubix cube
But with half the accuracy
I move and function
Until my mechanics are barely visible.

I carry the burden of twenty-one years
Without any spectrum,
Each year devouring more bitterness than the last.
My throat is a juxtaposition of
“Don’t look at me” and “please see me”
And i carry the need to be held in my hands.
Because my pockets are already full
Of words I was never able to say
And the eyes that I couldn’t bring myself to meet.

Movement is tied to recognition,
So I make myself into a blur of
Amber bear
And lapis lazuli
And dried wine stain
And ice aged sun
And all I hear is that my flexibility is a gift.

“It’s a gift,” says the eyes
That I originally couldn’t meet
And they ask me why I cannot see that.

I cannot recognize that which
Has no business trying to exist,
I pack myself into a box
And mail myself to typical, whoever he is,
And label the parcel,
“Dear god, return to sender.”


I fill the bald spots on my head with the healing powers of self-esteem that is promised to me in a care package. Calcite and sunstone and rose quartz promise to take me away on the most-expense paid trips to gaiety. 

They stare at the few pictures that exist of me from adolescence and see the instant I started to shed my curls, but it didn’t feel like my hair, dear stones, it felt like my skin because I was always told my only impressive feature was my hair. Sunbaked corn poppies and the veins of forest soldiers found their way onto a scalp that could never love them.

They try to return to the earth, the the core, the center, where affection is free from the constraints of the human psyche. But they soon find that even a cool surface can prune their fingers until they start to itch and the only way to calm them is to pull.

I’ve heard so much about this mortal being known as the calm but have only acquainted myself it with its sister cell, the storm. She arrives just in time to knock my bus off the road and the blacken the colors that were once within my grasp. 

I ask my chakra where is my calm? Where’s that special trip that you all keep promising? 

Then I remember that hope is the carved from the same tree as defeat. The gems lied to eat my leaves. 

So I let them. 

I’ll Shut Up By: Anna Keeler I’ll shut up When you can reach into my head and pull out All my imaginary friends And extract the lungs from their transparent chests So they can stop filling my brain with grandeur. I’ll shut up When you remove the fingerprints from my hands And the cochleas from my ears And the concept of the senses from my vocabulary, The day that my social disgrace And eyes incapable of hitting targets Catch a bull’s-eye in yours And become so malleable that you crush them With pliers. I’ll shut my damn mouth The day you shove a needle in my rib And do a biopsy of the compulsion in my bones; When you spend as many seconds Under the microscope of me And obsess over my chemistry the way I’m built to. The instant you arrive off your allistic, Good-hearted pedestal And anoint me with “I took Xanax once and I was okay,” Until your experience eclipses mine So hard I believe that stability is As simple as seducing the tits off positivity. Because strength is an eight letter word Antonymous with crazy, And crazy is another word for “she’s making excuses.” If I could I would pull the gray matter from my skull And camouflage myself against its bedfellow Until it was comfortable enough to cum Serotonin in my mouth, Or better yet, Let me absorb its dopamine on my cheeks. But abstractions cannot zip themselves Into personifications No matter how hard they suck in their stomachs. So I pick them up And press them into the page And pray they keep their bright, Gelatinous colors. Because these words do not seek the comfort of sympathizers And aren’t enticed by the politics of bra burning. But the second they are churned by outside minds They are slapped with the label Of a statement. A label that will be torn like a faded bumper sticker And left alongside the scraps of social justice. Inclusivity is a picky eater And has never been one to dumpster dive And certainly not from the hands Of those who pop pills like rosary beads. The words will be forced to wear The hats of those who know better And gridded sweaters that cover the bruisiest knuckles Until they are not themselves. They are not just robbed of their meaning, They are pillaged and burned down Before being wrapped in a lesser manifesto. Because I will be OCD And neurodivergent And schizo-pronia before I will be a poem. I will become the “You’re stronger than me” My friends shove into their pockets Before throwing tantrums in the faces of Quieter leviathans. And all they will leave me is the Shadows of those who milked Their sympathy seeking hearts That are only good for slipping And sliding And falling. One day, I will get across that floor. One day, I will be more than a sentiment in a pocket. But for now, I will smear shame on my lips And wear it like a smile While telling you all “I refuse to shut up!”

Zombie Logic Press By Jenny Mathews of Tiny Drawings

Don't Tread On Sergeant Pain

J.T. Whitehead lives with his wife Julia – the founder and Executive Director of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis – and their two sons, Daniel and Joseph. Whitehead is a Pushcart Prize-nominated short story author, a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet, and the winner of the 2015 Margaret Randall Poetry Prize. He also is the Editor in Chief of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. His first full length collection of poetry,The Table of the Elements, published by The Broadkill River Press, was nominated for the National Book Award. Whitehead's travels have taken him to Vancouver, Hong Kong, Oxford, Munich, Paris, Beijing, and Amsterdam. He has worked as a pub cook, delivery man, liquor store clerk, and grounds crew member. He practices law by day, and writes poetry by night.

Sgt. Pain never could bluff

Sergeant Pain’s new girlfriend was 15 years younger than he was. She was a real cutie-pie, nice ass, great legs, former cheerleaderwith awesome flexibility. She was very lithe and she loved the Army. Her Dad was Army and her uncle was Army and she thought Pain was the greatest. She loved Pain. They were a perfect match.  Except her tits weren’t quite big enough. So he asked, and she agreed.Even put his dog tag number, in a tattoo, on the left one, when it was done. And she caught a discount on the deal from the cosmetic surgeon, who was allegedly a former Navy Seal, once he learned that she was doing it all for the love of her man in uniform, for the love of Pain. So Sergeant Pain had about 400 dollars still sitting around, to play with. That meant poker, of course. He could have taken his woman -- his words -- on a trip somewhere, or banked it, but his brother-in-law -- his sister’s husband – hosted poker nights every fourth Saturday, and Sergeant Pain decidedto take part. He had only heard about it, up until now, but this time, he took up Jim’s invitation. Jim was a District Attorney, and he warned Sergeant Pain, there are going to be a lot of lawyers there, so be careful about what you admit to having done, what you say, trust me. Sergeant Pain committed the unpardonable sin of cheating, that night.He asked if he could bring a deck of his own. Jim told him,Not only should you, I was going to ask you to do so. We need decks.Long after the fact, Pain thought his brother-in-law had set him up, that he knew Pain or knew this about Pain. Great shame, now greater, for Sergeant Pain, after the fact. Some of the cards were marked. Jim was the one who grabbed Pain’s wrist, and called him out on it.  Sergeant Pain wanted to work his way out of it in his usual way, which was simply to start kicking ass and putting folks in the E.R. But you can’t really beat the shit out of a District Attorney.It’s not a bourbon bar in Hillbillyville with a D.A. It’s a Brain Game.Now whenever Sergeant Pain’s woman says, “Play time, Daddy?”and takes off her bra, Jim’s words bounce around in his skull --“Sarge--” (that was what Jim called him) – “You’re as honest as fake tits.” Poor Sergeant Pain. He left 612 dollars down, not counting the original 400. That’s not counting all the playtime he lost –  hearing those words ring in his ears – every time he read his number on the left one.

Sgt. Pain, Ret.

Later in life while drawing his pensioncompliments of the communist governmentof the United States of America,Sgt. Pain took a job as a supply room manager at the Wal-Mart in the north-side rural suburb of Monrovia, named for the fifth president ofthe United States, before it was communizedby Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower,& Barack Hussein Obama, and not to be confusedwith the capital city of the West African nationof Liberia.Sgt. Pain spoke often to the young men thereabout his heroic exploits in Operation Desert Storm& other exotic places, like, for example, Granada,in an effort to edify them on the virtues of pursuingheroic exploits for their own sake.He would tell the shirkers it was gasket-blowing time,boys, in a loud voice, when they were shirking,or remind them that he was about to go bat-shit crazy,and if they weren’t going to do the work, then theyshould at least pretend to do it, to avoid the shame.& they would say --“Go batshit crazy, old Sergeant Pain,” & --“Yeah, Dude, you pretend we’re working.”“You always pretend you’re some kind of hero and not just an asshole. . . . so you can pretend we’re working.”

What counts for Sergeant Pain

Handing Sgt. Pain the forms,
the recruit says, laughing out loud,
in anticipation of his own joke:

On the sheet it asked me –


Yes, says Sgt. Pain.
Go on.

Well, says the recruit, smiling,
regaining his composure:

I’m a Democrat . . . does that count?

Sgt. Pain is not laughing.

It’s never too late for Sgt. Pain

Sgt. Pain kept the grunts out on the Island past 3 a.m.

Repeating the drill.

“Too little,” he said.

Base addresses included “Reservation Road”  . . .

Sgt. Pain lived in a place on base on –

Wait for it –

Plantation Drive.  


A Jewish recruit
Joked with an offended Black recruit –

Don’t take it too hard, my Black friend.
The only reason
He took it is because
Somebody put in
A better bid
For the house
On Concentration Camp Court.

When a bumper sticker inspired Sgt. Pain to start his own business making bumper stickers:


Government didn’t build his business.
Pain did. Without any help. The finesse
Pain displayed negotiating the loans
he lent to himself with the bank Pain owns
marked Pain’s second greatest accomplishment,
after the hours and labor Pain spent
assembling, piece after piece, the car
Pain designed, manufactured, then sold. Man
is no island, according to God’s plan
but God did not design this man. This guy
did it all . . . himself.  An I for an I.
Pain drove roads Pain paved without help,
with maps Pain charted himself, of lands Pain
surveyed himself. Every point means “Pain
is here.”Pain traveled to meetings in planes
he flieshimself, using radar Pain reads himself.
It’s safe, on account of regulations
Pain passed and then enforced all by himself.
Pain kept his payroll on the computers
Pain built himself. And Pain designed the apps.
Pain sent every letter through a post office
with one employee: Pain. Plus or minus
this presence of a few million others,
all of whom helped to make Pain’s business,
Pain built it.  Pain did it all by himself.


And Hell raises itself by its bootstraps . . .

About the time Sergeant Pain confused a psychological diagnosis with a new muscle car

Sgt. Pain took the call collect.  His friend was Corporal Jimmy, & Jimmy had just wrecked his car, a GTO, same as Pain’s.  Jimmy was having monogamy issues as well.  What sustains Sgt. Pain with a woman doesn’t work so well for Jimmy.  Sex alone could work for Pain.  It wasn’t enough for Jimmy.  Pain’s ex-, as Pain told Jimmy, managed to keep Pain at home with only good head.  Pain said to Jimmy “she scratched wherever it itched.”  But Jimmy said, talking about his own woman, “she scratches too much.”  Meaning:  Others.  Silence on the other line, at Pain’s end.  He was thinking about it.  “Since you mention it, what gave it away?”  Jimmy tried to get to the source. “It was down on me. We’re done in bed.  Because I got the PSD.”  “I see, I see.” But Pain still spoke, of course, about the car crash.  “Tell me,” he said, to Corporal Jimmy, “about the PSD.”  Jimmy said “It’s bad man, and it comes on hard and fast.”  Pain imagined something better, meaning, better than his own GTO.  Something faster.  Believed the woman was jealous of a new set of wheels.  Jimmy always put more time under the hood than under the covers.  “Well, man, how do you take it?”  Jimmy said “Barely, barely at all.”  Pain said, “She left you for this?” Jimmy said, “No.  I mean yes, maybe.  See, I got it.  I have it.  She left.  I can’t explain it.”  Then Pain said “Shit.  Maybe she’s jealous of your new PSD.”  Jimmy said, “if she’s jealous of us, meaning me and my PSD, she’s a goddamned fool.  There is no us.  It’s just me and the PSD.”  Pain of course knew full well what PTSD was.  But Jimmy had a new PSD.  Pain, who drove a GTO, was not to be outdone. As soon as the call ended, Pain  began calling every dealership in town. Not one of them carried the new PSD.

When Sgt. Pain (Ret.) worked part-time for his girlfriend’s brother’s moving company

Pain had always moved himself whenever he had to move from one place to another.  He failed to understand anyone who wouldn’t do it for themselves, no matter how much shit the dead-beat owned.  Still he agreed to work part-time for his girlfriend’s brother, who owned a small business, a moving company, named “2 Dudes in a flat bed” (“flat bed” written in two words, as they named, marketed, and painted it).  He needed the money.  He owed it to his brother-in-law after a bad night of poker.  So he agreed to help his girlfriend’s brother out, working part-time, moving dead-beats.  Hung-over, he met them at the property instead of riding out in the truck.  After some hassles at the gate outside the gated neighborhood, he showed up, about 20 minutes early.  The house was four stories, including the basement, and Pain walked the yards, checking it out.  The truck showed up, the girlfriend’s brother barking orders to the other two as they stepped out of the truck.  Inside, the sheer quantity of possessions and the sheer quantity and weight of the furniture failed to persuade Pain that people might, sometimes, need help moving.  Even if they paid him for it. The man who owned the home was an enemy, as far as Pain was concerned.  
Pain would come to adore the man, eventually.  It wasn’t on account of the man’s needs.  He had a 1.2 million-dollar home, full of possessions, and clearly he could not move it all himself.  It certainly wasn’t the wine cellar, which Pain helped pack wrapping bottles in cloth and paper, with names he could not pronounce.  The vineyards were unmanageable, but Pain had difficulty even getting “merlot” or “cabernet” or “tokay.”  
He knew “port” however.
It wasn’t on account of the wall of safari trophies, though Pain had an unspoken respect for anyone that had killed so much . . . life.  
“At least he can shoot,” Pain told another mover.  
When the owner stepped down to the second level, while Pain and others were wrapping art work by artists whose names Pain would never know, never even pronounce correctly, Pain asked,
“Who do I have to work for to own this much shit?”
“I don’t work for anyone,” the man said.  “People work for me.”
Pain really had it in for the customer, now.  Even the gun-rack wasn’t enough to make him see the customer as just another man.  But then, when he was asked to dismantle the patio, Pain had his Eureka moment, and recognized that, yes, he is part of a bigger family, he’s part of a larger cause, he has friends, allies, even something resembling kin, and this millionaire was among them.  Out back, just at the edge of the two-level deck, near the stone steps that led down to the boat docked at the reservoir – named “Margin Loan” – he found his sign.  It was the flagpole, and flapping in the breeze at the top was not, as one would expect, the flag of the United States Marine Corps, nor Old Glory, but the yellow Gadsden flag, and its motto:
Don’t tread on me.
Pain was lost in reverie.  Pain, whose income consisted of his military pension and his Wal-Mart Assistant Manager’s salary of 17.25 thousand, annually, plus his part-time work this day, as a mover, had found his ultimate ally, his ultimate friend, someone, he just knew, who was on his side, and that man was the man with the wine cellar and the 1.2 million-dollar home.  Pain couldn’t stop reveling in it.  “No wonder he’s so good at shooting people,” Pain said to himself, out loud, on the deck, immediately correcting himself, “Animals.  Shooting animals.”  Pain remained locked in this dream state, rapt about the fact that someone understood what was really wrong with the country, that there was someone in the world who understood what he, Pain, understood.  He remained fixed in this dream-like, almost meditative state, staring at the motto on the flag on the pole outside the back of the house –
Don’t tread on me –
And so he remained, until his girlfriend’s brother ruined it with a shout:
“Hey, Sarge, we’ve got a kitchen and two game rooms with about six chess sets and a pool table to pack up in here, not counting an entire upstairs.  You gonna help, or you just gonna stare at that stupid-ass snake on that stupid-ass flag?  If you like that flag so fucking much, take a picture, it’ll last longer.”
Pain quit.