Mudlark Flash No. 22 (2003)

Ian Randall Wilson | The Wilson Poems

The Expectation of Wilson | The Hollywood Meditations
Wilson, Cleared | Wilson Exercises His Classical Education
Wilson’s First Film Set | Wilson Discourses on the Personal
Fruitless | Inflammable | Wilson Abandons His Muses

Ian Randall Wilson's first fiction collection, HUNGER AND OTHER STORIES, was published by Hollyridge Press in 2000. Recent work of his has appeared in AUGHT, SPINNING JENNY, ALASKA QUARTERLY REVIEW, and MUDLARK. He is managing editor of the poetry annual 88: A JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY.

The Expectation of Wilson

I’m the one who ends up in the kitchen
doling out the beers
and the women who stay for any length of time
are looking for a man in another line of work.
I spend my days around lawyers.
Last year they wrote a thousand contracts
that I put in their proper files
ready for immediate retrieval.
Our filing system is impressive
though I can’t tell you what we do.
Of course I can tell you
but I don’t have the full knowledge to explain it myself.
It’s something about foreign television rights,
bad pilots that never aired.
“Baywatch” is high art compared to what we sell—
but that has nothing to do with me,
wandering into an office each morning at nine.
Without an inner life to speak of, I drink my coffee.
I answer the phone and, most important, I have mastered
the art of the paper cut.
I staple and type, and change
the bottled water by the clock.
I believed I would grow up to be powerful, known,
but after listening to twelve continuous hours of motivational tapes,
I have become the kind of man who punches holes in walls,
opening a space between the nothing that is not there
on Tuesdays and the nothing that is nothing.

I lament my lack of journal entries
from the beginning of my youth.
I can’t remember my childhood.
My father, in his dementia, burned all the pictures,
took the house with him in his funeral pyre.
My boss is concerned.
He believes that his people shouldn’t wear black eyes,
cross their knuckles in scabs that ooze.
I have to agree.
The laundry has been calling.
The blood-stains are impossible to remove
from my white cotton shirts.
There's nothing we can do, they tell me,
nothing to do,
and there’s that nothing that is
again, coming at me from another source.

The Hollywood Meditations

During the lunch break while the executives dine at LA Farm,
          I jerk off in front of the Mitsubishi.
Enough ambition for today, lost in a cloth.
The skin offers a fine resistance
for ten seconds.
I have traded away the real thing by sending off the Beloved
            for the afternoon taking cats to the holistic vet for
            their shot of herbs.
Later they will meditate.
I understand the mind of God
becomes visible during sex.
I am watching Misty Blue part her knees while Jerry North
            heads south, moving in among those meatless bruised
            happy thighs for the close-up.
And I am all used up. Hollywood, some call it.
On the stairs outside a small office in the Valley, miles
            from Hollywood and Vine, which is itself miles from
            that Hollywood appearing on your screen, on the stairs
            the men are waiting.
Their line goes into the street where it is Wednesday.
Watch ambition.
The police allow this weekly ritual, they leave the line
Here, the only thing that matters is the size of the cock:
            size means length, thickness, circumference.
Boldness in the Trade.
Misty Blue arrives and nods her head choosing three hopefuls
            to once more mark her thighs.
At work I sit in a screening room and watch poor framing,
            another error by the projectionist; at $22.50 an hour,
            he doesn’t have a care.
We let our best man go to Sony.
Now we have to rent him back.
The optical track is wavering by the side of the screen like
            snakes running up a wall.
Not my metaphor.
I have borrowed it from the sound man and I ask him: Does
            he want it back?
Five men in suits walk down the corridor all holding phones;
            some say power drifts behind them.
They need to make us laugh to keep their jobs.
I have no trouble laughing, I start on Monday and by the
            middle of the week I grow exhausted by all the mirth.
After that I close my door and worry.
Will my talent never ripen?

Wilson, Cleared

Sometimes a closing door
stands in for love’s first stages,
imminence in the smack of bodies,
the way the parts all fit together
and then they don’t.
It was me she waited for,
to say I’m sorry, on a winter afternoon
between semesters when she caught me with someone else.
I’ve never been good at denial,
and who can be when discovered red-handed, red-faced,
between the open legs of the stolen goods?

Sometimes a closing door
advances toward its frame
holding daylight on one side
to let new lovers start.
I can’t apologize for lacking finite answers,
and the one I slept with years ago—
it only happened once, once.
All this talk of doors in metal
sandwiched between wood,
hollow-cored and insulated,
glass low-boys and the ones that come in red,
weather-stripping refurbished,
the insulaton factor nearing ten—
the metaphor can’t change the facts:
She went out the front and kept on walking.
I climbed back into bed.

Wilson Exercises His Classical Education

“The spit-camel of the Sahara
doesn’t have to drink for a month.”
I learn this on the Discovery Channel.
I, on the other hand, find myself pissing each hour.
This makes for difficult sleep.
So it’s pasta again tonight,
sauce from a jar.
I dream I have the heart of a lion in the body of a trout,
this makes for a cat who can breathe underwater.
I have no time to process this image
because my dog is demanding
to be fed.
My culinary skills have not progressed beyond
flicking the burner on.
My burners are sealed.
They develop 40,000 BTU’s.
That’s power, baby, this stainless steel
commercial grade Viking range
sits quiet most nights.
I don’t lament her leaving
and taking the cats.
She chose between a supporting role
in the new Madonna vehicle and staying home —
what would you have done?

When I was young I walked to the movies
and got lost in the dark.
Tonight I don't bother.
I depend upon desert.
I pass a cheesecake and my heart throbs.
I pass two women discussing cheescake
and I follow them home.
A company films outside my favorite restaurant
and I can’t get to the door.
Shoe, shouts a man holding a stick, Betty, Five K.
These are the codes of a street obstructed by silver trucks,
the sidwalks blackened by power cords.
I try to step lightly between fixtures
when I fall into the shot.
It’s the fault of my big feet that
I get discovered, the director rushes to my side,
all this happening to a man who hates cameras and persists
in sitting at the back of every room.

When the police finish questioning me
about why I disrupted the shoot,
I go back to my house and clip all the hairs from my nose.
I can breathe easier now
and work on my ears.
This thrill of aging
sends me to the couch.
Stronger glasses, bigger pants,
these are the reasons she left me
and that I’m on a first-name basis with Vool,
the delivery man from Domino's on Ocean Park.
Discarded pizza boxes make excellent insulation.
I heard this on television.
Save the planet
build a house
from pizza boxes and newspapers
and oriented strand board culled from waste growth trees.
When I turn on the television, the plant on top
begins to grow. In the time it takes to water it,
she is there, selling cars.
Expensive cars.
Vool will be here in ten minutes.
I hope he can fix the color;
she looks a bit red.

Wilson’s First Film Set

A man rushes into a paint store and shouts:
I need to paint a banana.
Where’s the yellow?

Now in your town, if a man rushes into a paint store and
            announces he is painting bananas I’m willing to bet that
            the clerk would roll his eyes, make that circular movement
            with an index finger round the temple, suggest you find the
At Standard Brands in Hollywood, clerks rush to your aid,
            knowing it must be some movie, believing that they, too,
            are part of immortality.
So I am holding a banana
standing in a paint store
in Hollywood
examining bottles of paint.
For twenty minutes we compare paint samples,
decide on something water-based,
quick drying,
easily applied by hand.
We test different types on the banana to cover all its flaws—
            eventually producing a peerless fruit: ripe, neccesary,
            totally made up.
With extra bottles of paint, brushes, thinner and other solvents
            for cleaning, I return to the set.

The commercial actors are striking and it’s up to us to get the
            product shot,
meaning that as a production assistant charged with carrying
            boxes, getting food for the director, delivering cans of
            film, I am part of one vast enterprise of filmmakers, of
            artists who daily sell you bread.
After ten hours with a tray of tomatoes
the director isn’t satisfied.
They’re not red enough, he decides, we need to make them weep,
            glisten with sexual abundance.
He says, I want tomatoes you can screw.
In this Hollywood, no one sees
that I have gone to film school
—prestigious film school, I might add—
spent years working on my craft.
I know more about lighting, cameras, film than surgeons know
            about hearts.
Get ready with the bananas, the assistant tells me,
we might have to go to them quick.
This is how we sell produce when the actors are on strike and a
            parrot stands in for the usual spokesman for the grocery
            store chain, a soap opera star.
So I am here with the bananas for the next insert,
lining up the boxes, ready with my paint.
Meanwhile we finish the tomatoes,
will go to lettuce after lunch
while the leaves maintain some green
before they wilt.
I think about filters.
The actor prepares.
How I’d frame the shot.
How I’d bring out the emotion in the fruit,
acting naturally,
to find and lose all sense of self.

Wilson Discourses on the Personal

Finally the personal
is all I can hold onto,
the vanishing sill between foundation and wall.
What is authenticity to a frog?
I have spent years inventing
my parents—divorcing them, killing them off
in piece after piece.
Never allowing them to come together,
I negate my existence through their disunion.
I pit fictitious brothers against themselves,
make sisters hate.
Then I set myself up as an only child,
emperor of the toy box, the one pony.
What can be more personal than a list of lovers
who have passed from the scene?
The name of everyone I ever lied to
beginning and ending with me?

A man walks into a house, the door closes, and he is alone.
From other rooms a wife appears, children, even cats.
Time passes and he is again alone, gravitating
toward his natural state. For a moment
I don’t doubt the sadness
but because I say it doesn’t make it true—
only ducks are that sincere.

In the instant I believe I have grasped
all the possible permutations of a life,
something new presents itself,
a thing that might startle,
perhaps incest this time
might confirm to myself there is being, not emptiness,
a man remotely resembling a man that is me.


It’s not for lack of trying:
The palm on the left has become a rusted pad.
I grind up flies,
examine arcana and mystery cures,
crack ape moons,
restrict my glow—
This is the vernacular of conservation.
I’ve gone to eating whole grains
and soy milks and nuts in the raw.
I’ve learned the nine basic exercises of Tai Chi.
Every night I stimulate the dragon.
The wood collects ashes.
The paint chips.
I can’t hold the crane position for long.

I find myself reading romances:
envisage mood and action follows.
I take tests from women’s magazines,
measure my potential
as a love slave.
Chen Zao says, when the feet point outward
the seed turns to dust.

I score high.
Perhaps this is another El Niño complication,
up north the ice is burning,
south it rains.

The sex doesn’t matter.
Okay, the sex matters.
Every step inside the bedroom
is a door opening on broken glass.
I feel it all,
but apartment time is a horizontal expression
of Newton’s first law: we wait to repeat
the northern migratory patterns of stones.
I’d like to announce an improvement in circulation,
all other factors remaining the same.
Then our efforts to defy gravity fail.
My lover who woos me with the passion of a cheap suit.
To divert myself, I plant perennials in a container garden.
The problem, of course, is nothing without space can grow.


I don’t believe in spontaneous human combustion.
My boss does.
He believes in the power of the triangle,
the probity of high colonics, ear-coning, deep tissue massage.
He’s taken to wearing fiberglass mitts
though it's difficult to shake hands.
Temporarily, he wraps himself
in smother blankets
until his tailor crafts a suit from unburnable thread.
He’s investigating personal sprinkler systems,
smoke alarms in the brain,
an early warning program spewing large doses
of flame retardant on the surface of the skin.
This kind of behavior
is always rewarded.
In fact he’s had a raise,
parking space closer to the door,
the suggestion of a younger, prettier
assistant than I am: balding not a little
                                 The company directors think
he’ll open new markets,
see profits rising.
Now my boss is dancing by the window,
trying on his brand new fire suit.
I carry on the office tasks.
Human Beings, says Chen Zao,
wander forever in fog.
After work, I go home to my apartment
where the power is in my name:
where I get light
with a touch of a finger.

Wilson Abandons His Muses

The beagle showed me the way to my first great poem.
All that white hair, the long long snout,
I never saw it before
the start of my many publications,
and then I understood the unmistakable
facial similarity to Robert Frost.

Success continued until one day the cat urged me
in a different direction: all swagger
and mince and murderous whim. Frank O’Hara.
I should have known
from those perky little ears,
that, and the rolling drunkard’s gait.

Of course the dog and the cat didn’t get along.
Discordant aesthetics brought tension
to my home, so I have taken
to writing outside.
A bird who could pass for Rimbaud
has accosted me. The blue nut grows houses,
cries a squirrel in the voice of Breton.

I need to go some place sterile,
where the birds and the bees and the plants can’t get to me,
a sealed room with filtered air and filtered light
where I won’t be subject to influences.
Then and only then can I claim the words on the page.
If the walls don’t start talking,
if the floor stays quiet,
if the ceiling doesn’t render an opinion
on the quality of my verse.

Copyright © Mudlark 2003
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