“Cornflakes” a Poem

Cornflakes-TitleThe following poem can be found in “A Man Upstairs,” now available in paperback and ebook on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Upstairs-Unsettling-Verse-ebook/dp/B0716898ZN/

So I look over to the guy and say, “HEY! How about them cornflakes?”
He gives me this look as if I just stole his wallet before stabbing his wife and decapitating the family dog:
A very specific expression they trained me to point out in the US Navy.
You learn a lot when you’re over there.
“What?” he says. “Cornflakes?”
Then he steps away from the bar and begins to fiddle his arms around in his pockets.
“What’s wrong?” I say, and walk over to comfort him.
“Get your hands offa me, I don’t want any o’ your business!” then he storms out of the bar.
I stand there,
The same feeling I had when Mother opened the bottom cupboard and made a mess of my petrified mouse collection.
I try to explain these kinds of things,
But they never listen.
I stumble outside, furiously jamming the key into my car door, and prepare to take the damn thing twenty-past speed limit.
I’m roarin’ down the highway, other cars flying behind like shiny every-colored beetles, sun setting in front of me with those weird long shadows.
Half an hour later I stumble into my apartment.
Can’t give less of a damn about the fact I can’t remember where I left my house keys,
Just that the door was unlocked all day.
I walk into the room and see copies of his awful face plastered everywhere.
John Monroe.
Learned to hate the name just as much.
Photo of him standing next to his Chevrolet.
Photo of him on a nice day at the pool.
Photo of him typing emails furiously at his desk…
Even one of him doing dishes in the nude.
I pull up the rolodex or whatever the kid’s call em’, and run my dirty little fingers over them.
There’s the number, I think, then I reach for the phone.
The line is silent for a little while,
Just this periodic ringing that always seems to remind me of hospitals.
Whatever, whatever, I think, pick the fuck up.
Finally there’s a click.
“Hello?” says a woman’s voice. Blunt and shaky… Like an intoxicated bar of soap.
“Yes, well dear, I…” and the thought loses me for just a moment.
Shifting on the other end…
“I just wanted to let you and your lover know, just one little thing… I think. It’s about the cornflakes. Be there in a flash.”
I let the line drop, but not before I catch the tail start of a scream.
She knows now. Probably getting dressed.
I check my boots for silverfish and dart out the front door. Fuck the keys.
I charge down the road a good five minutes until I see Monroe’s house jutting out like all bad men’s houses do.
You can always tell
Because the pink tassels on the fence.
I bust in, and sure enough, my wife’s sittin’ half-naked on the kitchen table, rushing to get her corduroys—
But she’s frozen for a second.
Stopped dead still like I’m some kind of 18-wheeler.
I tell her to wait just a moment, but then the door swings open.
And so before I run over to the kitchen to grab something from the knife rack I carefully pinpointed in my investigation, I give him one square look, and ask: “so how about the cornflakes?”
He gives me that look again—like I stabbed his wife, pissed on his couch, and decapitated the family dog.
Slight variation, but each expression is surprisingly similar.
At this point is seems like he’s just asking for it,
So that’s what I did.
Except he forgot,
It’s MY wife. MINE.
Well, not anymore.
Last time I’ve ever seen anyone use cereal as a coverup.

A Man Upstairs: Thoughts on Poetry

Thumbnail__0001_ManUpstairs_fullcoverI have a grave secret—one that has bothered me for several months now.

I’m not a poet… Not the last time I checked, anyway.

So why on God’s green earth did I publish a full book of poetry?

The short version of this story, is that I was frustrated at the time. I was looking up different spoken word artists, and stumbled upon the work of Steven Jesse Bernstein. Prior to that, I loved the work of Tom Waits and Ken Nordine, who both experimented with music and poetry in their own ways. Their work gave me a taste for punchy storytelling, but Bernstein’s work was the tipping point. I was feeling dry on writing standard prose, so I took this as an opportunity to experiment.

After hearing the collected tracks of his album “Prison,” I was overwhelmed with a desire to write something in the same vein. The gears turned for awhile, and around September 2016, I began writing the poems. One after the other. Line after line. It was some of the most fun I’d ever had writing in years, which was due in part to the challenge.

100 pages later, I had a comprehensive journey into humor, horror, depression, and insomnia. It’s probably one of the strangest works I’ve written (though stranger ones are still in the pipeline,) and I struggle to describe what it even is. I suppose you could call it horror, some of it is dark humor, and some could be classified as slices of life.

I wrote when I was angry, when I was depressed, when I was anxious, and perhaps the spectrum of emotion is embedded in there. Some of them are more elusive. “Cornflakes” for example, was written on a night where I couldn’t sleep–too frantic and anxious for an exam I was due for the next day. The poem flew out of me, and despite what I was feeling, it’s probably one of the most colorful and humorous pieces in the book. “The Red Letters” is another one of my favorites–especially to read aloud. Despite how grim and upsetting both scenarios are, they happen to have a contrasting sense of humor and timing. It’s not something I planned going in, and I’m not sure how effective it is, but I’m pleased with what came out of it.

The lesson to be taken from this?

No matter what your interests are, it’s always good to experiment. Try new things, and make discoveries. Out of all the things I was excited for in writing, I never expected to be so pleased with poetry.

“A Man Upstairs” is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback. The audiobook version is soon to come, and will be read by yours truly.

Ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Upstairs-Unsettling-Verse-ebook/dp/B0716898ZN/

Paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Upstairs-Unsettling-Verse/dp/1545355088/

Check it out, and by all means, leave a review!

All the best.