Pookah Papers

Pookah Papers

A Novel

s o o n   t o   b e  r e l e a s e d   i n   p a p e r b a c k

Lightning Rod

is a poet, musician, songwriter,
and all around around Bad Boy.
He is obsessed with the word and the note.

A renegade born in Yoga Vision, Texas, east of downtown Dallas, with a poetry bone clenched in his gums, Lightning Rod struggled though childhood like the rest of us, endured studies in music and literature but recovered to play the flute. He writes music with subversive intent.

This is an excerpt from a novel. All comments are welcome.
This work is dedicated to William S. Burroughs
and Jimmy Stewart.

BillyB speaks in bold.

Am I writing this or just writing it down?

No, you're writing it, I'm just giving a little bounce.

OK, bounce this around: I'm tired of these limitations.

What limitations?

All limitations. They bore me.

They constrain you.

That too. But it's worse when I know I can encompass them, envelop them and digest them--make them my own and then excrete them like some comfy load of rejection slips and termination notices consigned to my toilet's oblivion.

Of what consequence is that against mortality?

You would bring that up.

It's what we all face.

And this is why I won't surrender. I won't surrender my body; I won't surrender my honor or my integrity. Or what time I have left. It's all about time, you know. The use of it. So, is it to be my heart or my liver--or some virus eating little holes in my brain? See, I don't know. May be an eighteen wheeler gobbles me in rubber. Don't know how; don't know when. So, my best option is to make full use of every second that at least I know I'm alive in. It's every salesman's dream to have a product over which his customers obsess. God must feel that way. All His supplicants with souls dangling like so many fish lures. Lucifer, that ole catfish, wants to swallow your soul hook and all. Fact those hooks stick out his sides and he wears em like medals.

Name's BillyB. I've slimed the asshole of every busboy in Tangiers whose name has Mohammed in it. The very blood in my veins is seven percent morphine. I'm your pookah. Ever heard of Harvey? Well, I've buggered him too. Soft fur, little bitty rabbit asshole. Better than poet butt anytime.

What's with the porkpie hat?

My image. You know grey, cadaverous, intellectual. Think of me as Mr. Spock on junk. My magic is cold and rational. I'm here to keep you from falling for all the sappy bullshit the media hands you about patriotism and the good life. Just remember this: the good dope will always be illegal. God help us if somebody patents the orgasm. I'll be selling bathtub come.

In the mornings when I do my scales in the backyard BillyB sits in his orgone box. He says it promotes his phycic stamina and helps sharpen his innate ability to spot BS. Once in a while he'll give a satisfied grunt and say, "Yeah, that's right." as if agreeing with himself on some thorny topic. Just my luck I guess to get a head case for a pookah. For one claiming to be in the business of spotting bullshit he generates his share of it. So, it's not like I believe everything I hear from him. I know he's a con from the word GO. Yet his comments as he stands hunched over my shoulder have a quirky rationality. His mutter of nasal cynicism makes more and more sense.

No matter how hot it is in Dallas, BillyB wears the same vested grey suit and his porkpie hat. Ethereal in his dry cleaned way. Loping along like a semi-transparent thoroughbred. Never broke a sweat--it's a pookah thing.

Now and then BillyB would take a mood and decide to shoot some dope. He'd come in with his black leather kit and formally take off his coat, hang it on the back of the chair. Then while taking the cuff-link out of his French cuff he would expound on what a joy it was to be a pookah. No AIDS, no hepC, no bacterial endocarditis, no overdose, no withdrawal. A junky's dream. He'd open his case and it was like something straight from Conan Doyle--small alcohol lamp, silver spoon with arched back handle, tiny bottles of powders and pills.

The inexorable logic of the long shot.

You might be the Lightweight Champion of the World

But you're still a lightweight.

Think about Alexander the Great. Military gangster is what he was, and a terrible drunk. He and his boys got cooked one night and burned down the palace of the Persian king. So he stomped around the known world bullying the populace with his reputation and every now and then stopping to kick some ass. But in the process of this hooligan adventure he spread the Greek culture and set events in motion that would determine what the world looked like for the next thousand years. Plus he had the good sense to name towns after himself. Bunch of em. Some people have the generic capacity for such things. It would never work for me--Williamia? Billville?--naw never work.

Hard to say how old BillyB was. Transparent in his pookah way, his skin was mobile parchment. He wore the ephemeral. His greyness suggested age but the childlike sparkle in his very blue eyes announced the vitality of youth. In a way these eyes were the most tangible part of him--solid azure set in a ghostly latticework.

When I was just a young pookah in Almagordo I dreamed of atomic bombs and boy's soft buttocks. Cocoa butter and critical mass. Motility is the key to fertility. It's not how many you have--it's how hard they're swimming. Get those little jigglers energized enought to jump to the next shell. Covalent bond, penetrate the membrane, get fixed in a twisted protein.

Gonna have to get my Tesla Coil out of storage. It's even better than the orgone box for stimulating sensiivity to BS. One of the great unsung heroes, Tesla. Marconi and Tommy Edison stole the man blind. Nobody knows what he was thinking in the last years of his life cuz he wrote everthing in some undreamed of code. Who knows, he might have come up with the cure for television.

Down at the Mugwump Club in Ellum they sponsored jazz and poetry combat. In my childhood we could not have imagined fine art as bloodsport but such are the times . Who knows when exactly music and poetry degenerated to contact sports. It may have been something to do with pro wrestling stealing all the academics. Or just the fine line between art and show business. Anyway, the first death from poetic apoplexy got the whole damn thing started. Fat girl from East Dallas dropped dead trying to fake an orgasm onstage. How do you follow that? What can be more poetic than death? I mean, after all yer et tu brute's and yer gnite sweet prince's what are you left with? The answer better be "a good show" if you wanna put asses in seats. It's the whole reality programming mentality. The panting illusion of real suffering and somewhere a million dollars is involved. Trial by ordeal. Public humiliation and the chance of celebrity strolling hand in hand.

I hit him with a couple of double spondees followed up by a quick series of anapestic feet to the abdomen. He was reeling but still had the moxie to come back with that image about his pecker being stripped inside out and dipped in turpentine.

A clever combination of dactyls and iambs waltzed him right in to a full nelson; then an end rhyme to the small of the back.

My footwork was wearing him down. His metaphor was sluggish. I felt like finishing him off with some lightning alliteration but about that time he fell under the weight of his own simile and when his head hit the mat he was mumbling "like or as? like or as?" It was a clean knock-out but as usual the crowd wanted it messy. Wanted the blood to ooze and the spit to fly.

I was already an object of doubt at the Mugwump. To start with I always arrived alone, without the usual retinue of managers and hangers on and groupies. That's only because they couldn't see BillyB. This is just as well because BB spent most of his time in the Mug bemoaning the sad state of literature. I think he secretly enjoyed the tag-team jazz matches though. Especially when the saxes and bones went into a mad frenzy of honking and squealing. One night an alto man bit his own tongue off trying for the F above high C and was quoting Coltrane's version of My Favorite Things

with a fog of blood coming from the bell.

I could tell this one's spirit was broken. I could have hit him again, pandering to the crowd but I just didn't have it in me. Poor guy probably wouldn't write another four lines before his kids got out of college as it was. I thought of Jose Ferrer skipping along behind his foil as Cyrano. Knee and toe on perfect point, gayly composing and reciting to the cymbal clash of blades; gently dispatching his foe on the final line--thrust home! There was honor in that, and wit. This, on the other hand, was a sad demise--brutal and sluggish. I tore my poem to pieces and let them fall like confetti onto the vanquished form of my opponent.

The MC was the famous contact poet, Clitoe. They called him that because he had this ghastly mole between his eyebrows and it looked exactly like a clitoris in extreme arousal. When he read at a particular level of intensity the clit-mole would vibrate perceptably and the audience would breath harder as a result. There were rumors he could lick it with his tongue but I never actually saw this. His role here was to keep the casualties to a minimum and save the odd allotment of bloody noses, black eyes and scraped egos he managed well. We could both see this was a case for the meat wagon as Clitoe came onstage to give me my cash prize. I was trying to listen to his award speech with BillyB in my ear telling me what a crass affair this was.

You know why I do it. It's the money.

I'll support you.

God knows what I'd have to do. You're a perverted old pookah and I'm a fugitive from the law. I'd be completely in your thrall. Got to have a little movin' around cash.

So you'll sell the skin on your literary knuckles like some yokel at a carnival?

It's what I do. Besides I can't spend your money; it's pookah money. Probably has your picture on it.

Course it's my picture. But who looks? Sides in the right

light I can pass for Andy Jackson after a hard night of drink. Anyway it's as good as the stuff you use, which has gone from gold to silver to paper to pure digital concept. Money is no longer wealth in itself but a means of keeping score in this whore's game our economy has become.

We left the Mug by the back way and caught a cab on Crowdus between Elm and Main. I didn't know how hard the fuzz was on me but there was a blue warrant and I was on the billboard at the front door if only as a preliminary event. Always took cabs; never drove or carried ID. When we rode in taxis I tried not to talk to BillyB too much because it tended to upset the cab drivers to hear this one sided conversation coming from the nut in the back seat. So I let BB do most the talking in cabs, which was fine with him.

Fugitive poet, huh? Humph. Guess I never met a poet worth his salt wasn't on the run from something. That's cuz you gotta be outside to get inside. Ya need yer deviants. Lenny Bruce wouldn't have been worth a damn if he'd made it to Easy Street. We wouldn't know Whitman if he wasn't a shunned old queer. Now, I still don't know if you're the iconic poet you think you are. You're good but a lotta Hallmark writers are good. You don't really know if poetry's good until it has a patina. Sure can't tell in the time it takes an audience to get the joke. This ain't poetry; it's prize fighting, stand-up comedy. The rythms are like a bare fist on the jaw. The crudest doggerel works better than compostion with any thought. I don't know why you persist--yeah, yeah it's the money. If I played the Temperhorn like you do I would get me a little quiet jazz gig and lay low until the bureauocracy fell under its own weight. That's why you worry them back at that verbal charnel house, it's because you are a double threat. Don't know why you won't take your horn down there. Yes, I do. It's that perverted steak of kindness you have. Afraid if that thing ever got outta control you'd really hurt somebody. Or you could play in a venue where jazz wasn't a matter of life and death. Course it's all life and death with you poets.

My Pookah, the Paragorric Pedagogue

You don't talk to just anybody about your pookah

But with you I can be frank

Mischief in the first degree

Makes fun a Responsibility

Consience like Cupid

You'd expect a jokers tatters; this one wears Armani

He blisses out to Charlie Parker; wretches when he hears Yanni

Wear no corporation t-shirt; Got jokes down below his jokes

Strawberry Fields temporarily and YoMama should know YoYoMa

When I started playing the Temperhorn it was a relatively new instrument. Advances in bio-electronics made the concept possible and Prof. Javier Tempere at M.I.T. working with local rave-rockers and jazz renegades designed and developed the horn with it's companion software. Think they started with a Thompson machine gun in designing the ergonomics. It's held at the waist by the two handpieces on which there are keys. The disc magazine is rear and central and along the sides of the instrument are various controls, modality triggers and percussion pads. This would all amount to just an odd shaped synth controller but for the real conceptual advance which is the bio-sensor array. This is worn like an abbreviated helmet around the head and neck. Pads contact the temples and scalp as well as two on the neck, one over the Juggular

Vein and the other over the carotid artery. The mouthpiece is a ring about the size of a quarter lined with sensors which detect the speed, volume and temperature of air moving through. This is also a microphone for direct voice and voice synthesis. Small lasers focused on the eyeballs let the player affect tonal and timberal changes by means of pupil dilation. Some of the old jazzers laughed at the device calling it the polygraph of music. Those jokes proved prescient as the software improved and the player's emotional input began to be accurately rendered. In short the horn was being controlled not only manually with the external buttons and switches and breath input but also directly from the bio-emotional state of the player. As you can imagine one playing this instrument well must possess yogic control over his body and mind. This is why that while anyone can strap on a Temperhorn

and often evoke amazing sounds there are very few virtuoso players. Casualties from the horn are not uncommon especially among the younger players. Besides the predictable burst eardrums and shattered glass the inexperienced or undisciplined can with the new amplification devices cause heart attacks, aneurisms even broken bones in themselves and nearby victims. BillyB could hold forth at lengh about the parallels between modern musical intruments and weapons. But in the proper hands the horn was most incredibly evocative, could make women swoon and strong men cry.

We stopped at the Veranda Room where the ambiance was not so edgy. Doctah Ben was on break when we walked in. "My main," he said as we joined him in the corner booth. Ben looked like Aunt Jemima trapped in an old jazz piano player's body. "Didga hear about the next generation Viagra? It's called Vinigra. Not only gets it hard but makes it big and black as a forty-nine Plymouth radiator hose." I looked around to see if anyone else was laughing. Half-a-century since the Civil Rights Movement and a white man still couldn't tell that joke.

"Didga bring that bad ax o' yours?"

Not tonight, Benny. Been down fightin' for my supper with those maniacs at the Mug. Thought we'd--I'd just drop in for a brandy before bedtime.

Yeah, that is a crazy bunch of kids down there. I'd drop around once in a while but you know my motto: Don't shoot the piano player. Still dodgin' the cops?

Fraid so. You notice I'm facing the door. It's about to get on my nerves, duckin' and dodgin' like a thief.

Whatchu wanted for?

Not crossing my t's or was it dotting my i's? Can't remember which. Parole violation. Those people own me for the rest of my natural life. Way they look at it I'm theirs any time they feel like yanking my string.

First year I practiced the T.horn I would either drive to the country to do it or get in my closet up against the clothes. I was young and could stand six or eight hours a day of playing. It was such a powerful thing and I did it so badly that I didn't want to inflict it on the innocent. Some years of yoga had prepared me in rudimentary fashion for the rigors of the instrument but I was still awed by its evocative potential. The last thing one wanted to do while playing the Temperhorn was to lose one's temper. In fact, if the player didn't maintain emotional equilibrium the results could be unpleasant. Went into the studio one day after my girlfriend dumped me and blew out the booth window, a nine hundred dollar microphone and the left eardrum of the engineer. The one thing a T.horn player had to have was compassion. That and detatchment. It's no wonder most of the world's best players were junkies. They're not the best on compassion but they're great on detatchment.

"...and ease the pain of your useless and pointless knowledge." Bob Dylan

How did I deserve you?

Just lucky. And needy. Think of me a a consultant on life's grittier issues.

How about the authorities hounding my ass?

That's a disease everybody enjoys. Your case is just a little more acute. It's not like you're on the ten most wanted list.

They've still got me in a box. Can't work. Can't drive. It's crampin' my style.

How can one recognize moderation unless he's known excess? And along with excess comes extremity.

What're you? Some kinda Zen pookah?

Like you're a paladin yogi. Afraid to chant OM in public for fear of shattering the champagne flutes.

Doubt, Style and Trepidation

What does this indicate?

Style surrounded by Doubt and Trepidation.

In other words--me.

I may be the greatest Western writer since Genet. Coltrane would die to make the sounds I make and I can't get laid by an elderly dog. It's because any woman with the sense to stuff a bra looks at me and red flags launch like the Fourth of July. Ex-con, unrepentant drug addict, broke as a churchmouse, a musician, wanted by the law, iconoclastic and opinionated, lives from cigarette to cigarette, wastes his time writing poetry, wears underwear for a week if he wears it at all, has no job so appears naked in a world where jobs are worn like clothes, glories in his nakedness, hangs out with a six-foot grey pookah and god knows what other imaginary friends.

Let me assure you, my boy, I am far from imaginary. Blink your eyes and see if I go away. Don't let my ephemeral qualities deceive you. I'm very real.

Yeah, Sir Real.

One's idea of real is much like a suit of armour. Protective, bulky, cumbersome, can't get on yer horse without help. Long as you defend those colors you are bound by thier ideals. So, what do you want? A woman or women?

Hell, I don't know. Something warm, soft and wet would be nice once in a while.

Take a slow shower. Used to be said that men lived on sex and women on romance. And that was the truth in a coarse and general way. Not so these days. Most women have become men. We've settled into gender equilibrium. Instead of men and women wanting different things from each other which meshed in testy symbiosis, today we see men and women both wanting the same things--indepedence, autonomy, control. They need each other less. But, as always men need women more than women need men. I think you just want to be adored.

Everybody just wants to be adored.

But some of us are more adorable than others. It started in the last century with a viral infection in the female of the species. Why do you think women acquiesed to their subservient status for thousands and thousands of years before recently asserting their right to political and social equality? The virus infected the germ cell of the female, became assimilated into the genetic code and has since been passed from mother to daughter. I'm sure they could dig up specimens from before the infection and with DNA testing show the difference in the sequence with modern women. The new genes code for more testosterone. That's why the bitches are so ballsy.

You're just an old misogynist in scientists clothing.

When I tended to my email BillyB would drag out his old Remington and sit pecking on it. There was something comforting about the staccato rythm of the keys. BB said he preferred what he called the accoustic typewriter to the newer electrics and the computer keyboard was well, some silly little toy to him. The internet was, in his estimation, just a "glorified telephone with nasty pictures."

I postulated the Interzone years ago. This Internet thing is just a corporate imitation. They wanna spy on yer mail. They wanna record every keystroke. They wanne set you up to suck on whatever titty they care to offer you. When you get that Temperhorn hooked up to the Internet, then you'll get close to Interzone. But the Internet will never be Interzone--too many cops. And besides when you say cyberspace you are already in fantasy land. Interactive is really psuedoactive as opposed to participatory. Interzone is directly participatory, not interactive. The only participation they require from you on the internet is your credit card number. It's just the next level of virus adapting its environment to its lifestyle. Like language and music. Yeah, even music is a virus. Does that make you a sick man or a genius? It depends on how well the virus achieves equilibrium with its host. The music virus is just a more recent infection than the language virus. Almost everybody has the language virus--it's very old. But the music virus is newer and not as contagious. This is why some people are "talented" and others are not. Some are imune to the virus and this becomes genetic so their progeny will never be "talented" musically. Viruses are master genteticists. Agents of selection. Consultants on the molecular level. They go in and with sheer will change organizations, make systems more to their liking. They create high paying positions for themselves in the cellular corporation.

I knew I was infected with it. But it's a glorius disease. Nothing is quite like the feeling I get when I see the audience light up when I start playing. It's like a bonesaw splitting my sternum and allowing me to to expose the palpating muscle of my heart.

Yeah, yeah, technology meets the mating call. Someday you'll be able to activate their implants with silent music--outwit the orgasm patrol.

None can be so controlling as the controlled. You would think that the victims of oppression would hesitate to oppress but sadly, this is not true. Look at the Jews. Two generations after the holocaust and Isrealis are acting like a buncha Nazis. There's gas chambers in them rubber bullets.

There are subspecies that transcend the races. I'm sure it's of viral origin. Specialized drivers in their cellular cockpits. The control virus is not especially widespread but particularly dominant. You have the bovine strains and other ruminant wool bearing worker types. Course human eugenics and slavery breeding programs confuse this as well as caste and social stratification. Then you

have the bureaucratic strain which I find to be signally odius. I can't wait to see how the AIDS virus makes peace with its hosts. I'm sure it will result in a race of homosexuals with invincible constitutions. Super drug addicts. They'll eat Baptists for breakfast. Don't let me forget the benign and screwy techo-virus.

There was the virus riding on the bacterium riding on the fungus. On the back of every bug

There is a smaller bug to bite'm

And on his back a smaller bug

And so ad Infinitum--whoever said that

The picture of diminishing reality. Opposing mirrors. Science keeps subtracting the floor of reality. Molecules--smaller, we have atoms. Not just atoms but sub-atomic particles like protons and neutrons and electrons in a haze. And each of these is a tiny universe. Through observation we have been able to understand persistent symetries in our physical world. Laws pertain. Physics is reliable until it becomes unreliable. We can discern and predict the manner in which distant orbs hurl and spin through the void but why are we here and able to discern and predict is the question we hesitate to answer. Comes a time when every virus has to decide whether to kill it's host. Replication is the mandate of all organisms. The virus must decide whether to kill the cell in which it lives by the gorge of its progeny much as we must decide whether to kill this planet with ours.

It was a Sunday and raining which was unusual for Dallas in August. The crepe myrtles which lined the steet were weeping radiant magenta. I could tell BillyB was restless in his pookah way because the pieces he was cutting his prose into were becoming smaller. He worked with surgical scissors and rubber cement to assemble the fragments back into legible form. I've never been sure if this was an artistically valid way to compose but one at least looks industrius while doing it. His coat was already on the back of his chair and as he adjusted the garter on his sleeve he said he was tired and thought it was time for a taste of the opiate.

Taking drugs with BillyB was always an enlightnening experience. He was full of facts and folklore about every substance known to be abuseable. He approached it in a clinical way, but ceremonial as well. It was always a quest of investigation not only of the drug's effects but also of how one reacted to them and what he learned by the split viewpoint. One night he produced a bundle of yage vines from his black leather kit and we sat in our skivvies across a circle of candles with soot smudged on our faces in communion with every zen-bop traveler ever dropped a tab of Sunshine or chomped a cactus bud. As the evening developed we were joined by Al Huxley and Ed Poe. What with that gothic thing Eddy had going and Al's cold scientific projections and social cynicism BillyB was like a kid at Disneyland, baiting them both.

It was just getting dark when the black leather kit came out. It was still drizzling rain--a Lady Rain as we say in Texas. BillyB began extracting packets and bottles and ampules from the kit--more than I would have suspected the bag would hold--and assembling them on the table.

Let's see. Mexican brown. Asian white. Iranian grey. No, I think tonight we'll go with the pharmaceuticals.

Normally when BB shot drugs I would smoke herb or hash. He would reach in his bag and toss me a half a sole of Afghanni or a bag of something spicy. Hard experience had taught me that my capacity for sustained opiate use was mortally slight. Sadly I did not posses BillyB's pookah immunities.

More exerpts from

coming soon.



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