Did you know that Jesus was a carpenter?
Most people do.
But did you know that my cousin Scott is a custodian at St. Joseph’s Parish?
In Maplewood Square, Malden, Massachusetts,
not far from Lebanon – the street, not the country.
But wouldn’t that be something? Working near Lebanon.
Working in Syria, washing dishes, waiting on Ramadan
when we wouldn’t have to work so fast.
Letting the plates dry naturally, freeing our hands to pursue ourselves.
Delivering pizza in Jordan.
Hold the bacon.
Hold the sausage.
Hold the door open as I fish though my pockets for change.
Hopefully I’ll get a tip.
Hopefully that pipe bomb under the driver’s seat
won’t blow until after I’ve dropped my wife off at the station.
At one time Beirut was known as the Athens of the Middle East
the Seville of Barbarino, the Cincinnati of Upper Sahara.
It was quite the town.
Now it’s a place that we associate with complete destruction.
A temple of gloom.
Which brings us back to the Oklahoma City bombing.
To quote a man, who quoted a man, who quoted a man,
who quoted that days newscast: “Downtown Oklahoma City looks like downtown Beirut!”
And I’m sure it did.
Dustcloud covering the city, baby boy arms,
baby girl legs littering the streets.
A prelude to the true end of the twentieth century.
It looked like downtown Beirut.
What they failed to mention
was that while downtown Oklahoma City had been transformed into Beirut,
Beirut itself still looked very much like Beirut.
And to boot, my cousin Scott’s hours at St. Joe’s have just been cut back
thanks to the eighty-five million dollars that the Boston Archdiocese has to pay out because Father Buntel couldn’t keep his Roman candles in his pants.
Though these priests cannot be blamed for their actions.
For if you look closely at the Ten Commandments
you’ll see that it does not include
“Thou shall not fuck little boys in the ass”
amongst its rules and regulations.
And I can relate to the insanity that not getting laid can contribute to.
After one legendary afternoon in 1989 I actually contemplated
spreading peanut butter all over my dick
and letting my neighbor’s dog lick it off.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Desperate men, who are willing to do anything
to empty their testicles,
overthrow their governments,
throw themselves empty out into the empty streets below
because God had no use for them
As a child
my mother would summon me
whenever there was a spider in the bathroom.
And it was my duty to kill it
with a rolled up copy of Woman’s Day in my right hand,
my sisters standing in the hallway
peering over my shoulder,
with my mother screaming as my first attack didn’t hit.
The little grey monster scurried down the wall
past the mirror
where my killer refection reflected my killer face
hopping onto the soap dish
my father’s razor
and finally finding safety on my mother’s toothbrush
which sent her into higher hysterics than she was already at.
Dead spider on my mother’s
And I remember the joy of picking up the dead spider
by one of its remaining legs
and chasing my sisters around the house,
threatening to make them eat it,
as my mother chased me from room to room
trying to knock the spider out of my hand
with a dirty green dust broom.
How quickly the tables could turn:
the savior is sent away
the angel has fallen from the sky
to be treated like a degenerate leper
peeping tom pushed back down into the alley below.
And I always regretted killing those spiders
—as I later learned from Mr. Giordano
—-that spiders are our friends.
Unless of course
you’re camping in the Mojave Desert
and wake up with one your forehead.
the arachnid family is constantly catching mosquitoes
stopping flies from flying
keeping our precious blue blood
in our very own precious blue veins.
And reminding us
to redecorate every once in awhile.
How hard can it be to put up some curtains?
Paint the kitchen?
Hang some pictures?
When the spider abandons his home and builds a new one
without the assistance of thumbs
or real estate agents.
Forgive me for the bloodshed of my youth.
I never took any pleasure.
Not like the gypsy moths that we used to catch and put in the microwave
—or the frogs that we used to release at the Pierce Street intersection.
Waiting for them to be squashed
——Lincoln Town Cars.
3.11 Earthquake (Shinjuku, Tokyo)
There was a shake, a rattle and I rolled out the door,
Kinda smiling at my neighbor who I had never smiled at before,
saying nothing to each other
but almost feeling like brothers who never met
like you never ever do in Shinjuku.
Here in Shinjuku.
The two of us on the verge of almost holding hands
watching the big silver-black buildings
sway like sick snakes in the sky.
We are all gonna die.
We are all gonna die.
Well understood that death must happen someday,
But no, not now and not here
Out on the street, barefoot and not wearing any underwear.
Here in Tokyo town, with my feet planted firmly on the un-firm ground
That swayed and swooned and made me feel like a good dancer.
I don’t wanna die in an earthquake.
I wanna die from cancer.
I wanna be eaten by a rabid polar bear, all dressed in white like your mother
on her wedding night if she hadn’t been fucked before.
I wanna have a barracuda jump into my boat
As I vacation in the Bahamas
And encourage it to eat off my face.
I wanna die in outer space, attacked by aliens
Who are technically not aliens as they live there
And I would in fact be the alien, the outsider, the gaijin, the intruder.
I wanna be murdered as I try to break up a fight between the Crips and the Bloods.
I wanna be shoved in front of the 6 pm Yamanote train, full of love, as I wait in vain.
I followed her to the station, because I’m a stalker.
I wanna be shot behind the Alamo by Walker Texas Ranger.
I wanna be killed on the beach like that Arab in The Stranger.
I wanna die in a massive house fire, hopefully similar to the 1976 Disco Inferno single
As we all go up in polyester flames with bell bottoms and Afros and hoops earrings
that somehow make even the ugliest girls seems gorgeous.
I wanna die on the fifth of the July, midnight as the fireworks start to fade.
I wanna die on Easter Sunday, big fat honey ham heavy in my stomach.
I wanna ache from arthritis.
I wanna bake from being burnt up in the Death Valley sun.
I wanna rake with the reaper, scooping up the lost souls
that stole my milk money back in September of 1983.
I wanna die like Martin Luther King with visions of mountain tops and children
and sugarplum fairies dancing in my head.
I wanna die and stay dead.
Cuz if I came back as a zombie I might have to eat my friends’ brains,
And that would leave me hungry.
I don’t wanna die from Lou Gehrig disease, fuck the Yankees.
I wanna die from Ted Williams’ Disease or Jackie Robinson’s Disease,
or Roberto Clemente’s disease.
I wanna die in a forest fire, where I catch Smoky the Bear puffing on a cigarette.
I wanna be murdered by Tony the Tiger or Captain Crunch or Snap, Crackle and Pop.
Cuz I respect cereal killers.
I wanna die from Facebook disease, where a woman shoves a book up her cunt
and sits on your face until you can’t breathe.
I wanna die from War and Peace
I wanna die from Slaughterhouse Five
I wanna die from Mexico City Blues
and as the books fell off my bookshelf and hit me on the head, I was thinking
“Damn, I’m glad I’m not dead” but also,
I should have gone to Blue Parrot bookstore last week to get rid of all this shit,
but that place makes me claustrophobic and you know it and I know it.
We don’t wanna die in an earthquake.
We don’t wanna die in an earthquake.
For God’s sake, God takes, God leaves,
Leave us bereaved.
I wanna die a block from where my mother was born.
I wanna die surrounded by the ones I love the most.
I wanna die with my head on a pillow and my angel on earth holding my hand.
I don’t wanna die from Alzheimer’s or diarrhea or hemorrhoids or eczema
cuz those words are hard to spell.
Thought I wouldn’t mind dying from AIDS,
Cuz AIDS is easy to spell.
We love AIDS the best.
I wanna die on my baby’s chest.
I wanna die listening to Paul’s Boutique or Astral Weeks.
I wanna die like Jesus Christ, so nice, so naked, so handsome, so righteous.
Just like us, the Tokyoites.
As a fool once said
“This country may not be my country
But this neighborhood is most definitely my neighborhood.”
When the earthquake first hit Tokyo I didn’t believe that
It was an actual earthquake.
I thought it was one big practical joke
Cuz I have epilepsy and I thought that the whole city was making fun of me.
You bastards, you bitches
You punks, you whores.
Lord up above.
What is all this earth shaking for?
U.F.O.s Give Me a Boner
I like the way she looks when she steps out of the shower.
Her hair wet and no makeup yet,
the hint of a one-day baby belly
and the beads of water rolling southbound down her back.
I like the way Sunday always feels like Sunday.
You could wake up on a deserted island with amnesia, Alzheimer’s and half your frontal lobe lying on the road.
But still know (still know!) that it was a Sunday.
I like your mother, she cooked for me one time.
I like crime, I respect the rebellious and the utterly ridiculous who have no desire to actually work.
I like having a job, the regimentation and crystalline precision setting a man into motion.
I like fat people, the make me feel healthy.
I like being back in Boston for Christmas and shoveling snow first thing in the morning
and there is nobody else around and not a sound, no cars driving down the streets and no voices neither,
my own heartbeat almost stilled by the snow.
Sometimes I like to be alone.
A lone wolf, a loner
And it can’t be denied
U.F.O.s give me a boner.
I like animals, they’re delicious.
I like Thursday.
Most people would vote for Friday or Saturday.
But the weekend can be a letdown, expecting too much of the few days that we have to be free.
But Thursday is full of the unknown, the anticipation of what might happen.
One more day to go and who knows what we will ingest
or on whose chest we will awake, wondering weary eyed “where am I”?
I like Lake Titicaca.
I’ve never been there and I’m not exactly sure where it is.
But in my junior high school geography class, its existence brought great joy to my life.
I like your father, he got me drunk when you and your sisters were in the kitchen,
cooking and cleaning and wondering when I was gonna propose.
I like clothes, they keep the aesthetically unsightly from illegally walking the streets naked.
But I don’t like buying clothes, I’d rather borrow or steal or inherit them from long-lost uncles.
I like the night before Christmas (very promising),
so much more enjoyable than the day after Christmas (less promising).
I like black people, they invented the greatest music the world has ever known.
I like white people, they invented Silly Putty, Pop Tarts, Crazy Glue, the Internet and lots of other useful shit.
Of course, I like your wife.
Remind me to phone her
So that I call and can tell her
U.F.O.s give me a boner.
I like Jesus, he was the man. Too bad about that Christianity shit.
I don’t really care for tits. If they’re there, fine, but one day they’re gone, because gravity ruins everything.
I like my friends, most of them have tits.
I like your cousin, he worked at a donut shop and taught me the meaning of a baker’s dozen.
I like the Japanese, they leave me alone for the most part and never talk to me.
I like the Chinese, though I would have to agree with my more jingoistic Nihonjin brothers and sisters
when I say, “Damn, those Chinese are noisy!”
I like the Koreans, the North, not the South, very entertaining.
I like nicknames, growing up in Boston everybody had nicknames lending us a heightened sense of fraternity.
And some of them were quite inventive.
We had Spider, he was named Spider because in kindergarten
when the teacher asked him what he wanted to become when he grew up answered, “I wanna be a Spider”.
He regretted that the rest of his life.
Then there was Crusty, he was named Crusty because he had eczema.
Then here was Eggroll, he was named Eggroll because he was half-Chinese.
And there was Orca, Sparksy, Logman, Stupid, Birdman, Mick Jagger,
Gibby G-String, Assface, Sully, Sully, Sully, Sully, Sully and Sully.
I like the fact that I am not in the military, I’m no good at talking orders.
If I spontaneously combusted and somebody yelled, “Frank, quick jump in the ocean!”
I probably wouldn’t do it, as I hadn’t thought of it myself.
I like to be free, to be me and run naked down the street, climb every tree
And sing to the squirrels about wide-open spaces and the places we could go and go and roam and roam and be alone,
leave home and never return but run wild and be free, doing what we like, whenever we like.
Your mother’s a crackhead.
Your sister’s a stoner.
But I’m not perfect either.
Cuz UFOs give a boner.
I like Asian Americans.
I live in Asia and I am American and whenever I go back to America and see some Asian guy, I think to myself
“What’s up dude? I know where you’re coming from.
I’m hip. I’m down. I’m groovy.
Sixteen Candles, that was a racist movie.”
I like Jewish people, they’ve been through a lot of tough times, but they still, historically, make the best comedians.
I like Australians, I find it easy to connect with them and think they get my sense of humor.
But I don’t like the Australian flag. Why is the Union Jack superimposed onto the Australian flag?
That’s like being raped and then putting a Polaroid of the rapist on your refrigerator
so you can look at their smiling face every day.
I like the English, in the 1960s they inadvertently reminded White Americans
that they should take more interest in coming from a land
that was responsible for birthing the greatest music the world has ever known.
I like Canadians.
Why? I have no idea,
but I’m crazy about them.
I like the fact that we are all gonna die someday.
Sometimes I like to go the hospital, make my way to the maternity ward,
press face against the big window, look at all the newborn babies.
And then I whisper softly, “you are all gonna die”.
Because it’s true, death is The Great Equalizer.
Me, you, some dude living in the desert, Bill Gates, we’re all gonna meet the same fate.
A friend of mine used to say that cocaine was The Great Equalizer,
but he was a cocaine dealer, so his view on cocaine’s ability to equalize people
was undoubtedly influenced by his occupation.
Benjamin Franklin once said that there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes.
But I’m not sure if I agree with that.
Last week I was walking down the street, I saw a homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk.
As I looked at this poor soul wasting away in his own piss and shit,
I wasn’t thinking to myself, “taxpayer”.
But I was definitely thinking “death”, probably sometime between December and February.
I like not being homeless, snug as a bug as night creeps across the city.
I like paying rent, hell bent on not sleeping in the street.
I like the beat of her heart and the way she smiles in her sleep.
I like her teeth, they are useful for chewing food and sometimes biting the back of my neck.
I like her chest, I like her best, the way she steps out the shower and asks me for a towel.
I like a soft voice,
I like a moaner, a groaner.
Girl you know it’s true.
UFOs give me a boner.
Frank Spignese lives in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
His first book, The Great Flood, was published in 2010.