Sunday, February 27, 2011

D.C. After Dark

D.C. After Dark

The machine of legend looks like its been on a binge,
listing clackless, hungover and abandoned,
screaming out no more secrets
from its rubbery cylindrical mouth.
It sheds bits of rust with the angry silence
of an old man’s  rheumy tears,
as if in its cancerous steel gut it misses
the caressing fingers of the Famous Beltway Reporter
who once sat here, fueled by tanks of scotch,
fat white cigarettes like obscene stiff worms
leaving their spoor on the scuttling fingertips
pounding the keys with a lover's self-focused delight
crescendoing release on the last page.

For years he covered D.C. after dark.
The pettifogging mooncalves
shysters and snollygosters who
bottomfeed themselves in the salons and dives
came to him first with their reeking tidbits.
He thrived on the unspoken but finally discovered,
followed his nose through the fug of sex and death,
tapped out the authenticated fables of braggadacio
or translations of confessions barely breathed in the dark
as innocents say their soft prayers to a predicated god.
He was inquisitor and thief to those who loved their sins,
smug counters and recounters of their iniquities,
his job to rob the boxes under their beds of guilt and proofs
of potency, strip the skin off their success
and show the bloody emptiness within.

His old Royal was a mad scientist's laboratory
where all the lies and ramblings, all the body parts
of stories were given a blood test, 
filtered through clean white adjectives
administered a shocking phrase
then sealed with tight lines from insider sources
into neat packages to alleviate for some few minutes
the bland boredom of the world.
His choice to make banner headlines
out of ginwhiskered rumors or
lay a blanket of newsprint over cold uncomfortable facts
and put them to bed forever.

Now young blogging upstarts sniff and tap while the
empty wind of words whistles down the internet,
for the Famous Beltway Reporter died
like all the rest, coughing up a lung
and wringing out a bad liver,
clackless, hungover and abandoned,
outlived by his byline, with only the cold
sad truth to sit at his bed and
no one even to inherit his typewriter,
a mumbling derelict forgotten,
passed out under some bridge in the night.

February, 2011

snollygoster: –noun, Slang . a clever, unscrupulous person 

Posted for One Shoot Sunday at the inimitable OneStopPoetry


  1. What a fantastically rich read! Starting off on an ancient Underwod at age eleven, I loved the resurrection of this beast's glory days. Am in such admiration of "pettifogging mooncalves shysters and snollygosters" (!!!!) . No, the young bloggers of today will never rival the newsrooms of yesteryear (I worked in one for years), tossing their crumpled copy over their shoulders, roaring "Stop the presses!" (once when at age fourteen I uncovered my first Scoop!). Sigh. Lovely trip back this morning. GREAT writing!

  2. the mad pace and rush for the NEWS has ruined the concept of reporting...but I do appreciate a good spellchick now and then...HA

    this was a perfect journey for me...Thank you

    Peace, hp

  3. There is so much back story conveyed through your lines, directly and through wordplay, that I think this idea could easily be expanded into at least a a short story or novella. A climactic beginning to the journey, quite a journey, ending in mumbling dereliction. So it goes. You rock, hedge

  4. Love the rich story behind, beyond the lines, deep thoughts, meanings, stories of the writers mind.

    Well done.

  5. my goodness joy - what a read...i always wonder how your blog can hold the richness of imagery and ideas you pack into your poems...the...blood test,
    filtered through clean white adjectives... cracked me up...

  6. I can see the old curmudgeon picking up the phone and saying to the operator "Get me Rewrite, baby," cigarette dangling from the ocrner of his mouth. Great poem!

  7. Tragic with delicious imagery. It doesn't get any better than that!

  8. Fabulous baby. Print it! Roll the got a light?

  9. Huge grin for this utterly fascinating story written, as usual, with your keen eye for detail and image. I loved this poem all the way through it; so much so that the ending, while tragic, felt like a triumph of story-telling. Leaves me wanting more as all good stories do. Fantastic piece!

  10. your desription of this character is classic and yes, the reporters of today are nothing like those of was black and white...and words coming off newpaper printers changed the world...great writing ...bkm

  11. You painted a brilliant portrait, hedgewitch. I can hear the click-clack of the keys...

  12. fecking amazing...body parts given blood with imagery and fascinating story telling notch stuff...

  13. Wow. All from a dusty old typewriter photo.

  14. My dad was a newpaper reporter, though by the time I came along...he was 42 when I was born...he had advanced to management. But he never lost his reporter's mind. Dinner table conversation could be very interesting stuff sometimes, if he were working on an interesting feature. Or should I say, dinnertime monologues, as my mother never said much except "mhmm" at those times.

    I wonder what he would make of this young blogging upstart? And, now that you mention it, I have no idea what ever happened to the old Royal of his that I learned to type on.

  15. the caressing fingers of the Famous Beltway Reporter
    who once sat here, fueled by tanks of scotch,
    fat white cigarettes like obscene stiff worms
    leaving their spoor on his scuttling fingertips,
    pounding the keys with a lover's self-focused delight,

    ... strip the skin off their success...

    Boy, you don't need your words repeated back to you, but I loved these lines. I actually was going to copy more, but knew that was silly.

    What an emotional poem - so vivid. Loved it.

  16. Joy Ann, you have laid out a history chuck full
    of the sadness about the fading newspaper. How much of our technology is becoming, too much?
    The imagery in this is outstanding.


  17. Woo-hoo!!! Thanks for making a reliquary out of that old Royal. Pure noir homage here, the pulp journalism of old, firing both barrells here:

    ... He was inquisitor and thief to those who loved their sins,
    smug counters and recounters of their iniquities,
    his job to rob the boxes under their beds of guilt and proofs
    of potency, strip the skin off their success
    and show the bloody emptiness within. ...

    I came to love that old salt miner of the DC underbelly with this poem. When I first started work at the city paper in Orlando in 1980, the newsroom still was littered with manual typewriters (though IBM Selectrics and Atex had taken over; and I remember a few of those die-hard reporters who looked much like the criminals they reported on (the way superheroes are exact tandems of their supervillains), desks littered high with papers and candy wrappers, ashtrays overflowing, coming in after noon and staying well after the cleaning crews had worked through. their eyes both penetrating and sagged. And his end is so much like newspapering, the Editorial department of our local paper a third of the size when I left a decade ago, all heading into Internet-enforced oblivion. Thanks for the arch memories, and for such a neatly nailed noir poem. I'm gonna have to reciprocate with mine the next day or so.

  18. It's not that the reporting is lost it's that them who are exposed have no shame and them that they are exposed to have no memory.

  19. Thanks, Steve, and thanks for checking out the older entries as well.

  20. A deeply emotional story! I personally know an editor who so longed for the hard steel resisting his fingertips--he said, it cranked up the rage in an editorial--and the clacking noise of the keys on his Royal that he went to work after his newspaper office has been 'wired' to a hub like he'd go to a funeral everyday. So quiet, he would say, too placid. He's my uncle and has retired recently. Like the tales you've retold in this poem, of this Beltway Reporter, he still can't see himself, and perhaps never will, outside of the newsroom, the Royals clacking away: headline after headline of the past forty years, nights under the bridge covering a coup d'etat, dingy corners during a raid, and an ambassador stumbling on the train of his wife's gown in a formal ball, and on and on. Ink , he used to say, runs in my veins, not blood; the Royal, not a gun, is my weapon. I could go on and duplicate your poem!

    Thank you, Joy, for bringing on this poignant memory in an excellent poem, masterfully crafted poem, as dustus, I think, you could write a novella out of this--in verse!

  21. I don't know how I missed this, but I'm forever stunned by how you sit down at the cathedral organ of the English language and play Bach as if effortlessly. xxxj

  22. I tried to read a highly recommended fictional account of reporters recently and couldn't because it bored the humdinging beegeebers out of me. I was on a plane desperate for words and couldn’t bear to read it. Your poem on the other hand has me once again singing your praises. How do you get me to care? Oh yes, your awesome command of language. I loved it from 'its rubbery cylindrical mouth' and by the time you got to snollygoster I lost all hope of getting out untouched. I love these poems where you really let your mind play: words streaming out at me like an epic movie, thousands of extras, something explodes or the leading lady close up makes me cry. All I can think at these times is 'I'm reading poetry, how is this possible?' And then I remember that you know real magic, how to sprinkle it across the screen, to whirl me away into fantastical, immeasurably magnificent, marvelously alive worlds. Holy heavens lady you know how to amaze! I better get back to work on that list of superlatives.

  23. Thanks, Anna. I'd almost forgotten this one. One Shoot had so many amazing prompts--and what amazes me about this poem rereading it months later, is that I wrote it all in what had to have been less than two hours. Yeesh. Don't ever bet me I could do that again. !


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats