John "Clem" Kilroy
Photograph 2, by Dan Hyde
Three from Torque:
Kick the Weather
Moab cut his lights
quick as a journeyman butcher
with carbide knives.
Moab's crew chief, Hezekiah,
held the laughter in his headset.
The universe will fly apart.
Moab thinks there's magic,
and that's just how you die,
or end up back
in the Sportsman classes.
God's at a drag race,
let me tell you son,
in a biker's rake of beard,
Raybans, stomp boots
and peril all around.
It's no place to think
A single grade 8 bolt breaks,
and you're dirt trackin'
to keep her off the wall.
Judith soaked her jeans in ocean water,
lets 'em dry tight around her ass,
until she knows she walks in whiplash.
Whoever you are, you have a chance.
Good looks, cool and money
gives you weight, and
Judith judges gravity.
Frem races to save his people,
the way of Pro Stock,
last of heads-up real,
the street and the factory,
horsepower back to Adam's day.
Moab first got married when he was ten.
That's just the way it was back then,
too much high-test or too much heart.
His parents drug him back, but you can't run
a freight train off a railroad track.
Love took him to both coasts and back.
Two girls pregnant by his junior year,
and a sappy English teacher who cried
a lot in class, then quit.
Everyone decided Moab's fate
was best anywhere outside
the high school fence.
So, El Dorado's best quarterback
in 50 years switched football pads
and recess head for overhauls,
engine grease and a mourning
straight till 5 p.m.
Shot once in Tempe, and beat up good
in Palmdale, Moab told the curse:
Love is meteorology; clouds obey
each wind. Driving out of Colton
with the wife of his best friend,
Moab prayed for God to send him
something big as all these women.
God slammed Moab's gas foot
to the firewall, where it stayed,
a new life without brakes,
all his faith in speed.
Frem's father, Faralon,
once tried to kill his oldest son.
Drunk on jar whiskey up at Angels Camp,
he pulled a derringer from his boot,
when Rangor returned the stolen truck
smashed up front from an ice slide
into a pine stump. Rangor fled
into the trees, safe from everything
except luck. Unlikely, for God
gave Faralon nothing but a way
with industrial saws in a forest
ninety percent clearcut. Frem blew out
of loggertown at 14, after Rangor's postcards
of Zuma Beach, where big women
were tits and legs and asses tied loosely
in little bits of string. Rangor, gone
on three-to-five in Chino, left Frem
his route of movie jerks
and asshole artists. But,
with a father juiced as frog cadavers
in biology class, mother dry and empty
as old lunch sacks, his brother stolen,
Frem gave up selling powdery outlaw fun.
He entered Plemmithan's Garage
an air of old Israelite caves. Dead Sea Scrolls
or an engine block hone, religion is writ
in different ways, and Frem turned his back
on God again for the smoky light
of the fastest man alive,
Don Big Daddy Garlits.
Just as the Bible more or less says,
what people do is anybody's guess.
Judith basted all the grandstand eyes,
up and down the strip, in her topo jeans
and ghostly little T-shirt. It did the trick;
stampeding thousand-legged things into her veins,
a wetsuit sense of heat, layer of loving air
attached to every inch of skin,
as if each man's stare could lick.
Right there with Hezekiah, as he talked clutches
at the trailer table, Judith raised her top
and pressed her implants to Moab's lips.
“Not now, honey, I've got to figure out
how to win this race.” It was only then
she thought of FremEl Serioso, a Thinker type,
said to have the biggest cock in the Pomona pits.
Frem stopped everything, the trailer locked up tight
for hours, as he knew her on the workbench,
in the plastic shower stall, and standing,
both her hands flat against the hauler wall.
Frem vs. Moab, Round 1,
Judith and her little genocides,
tree lights and torque,
the whole crowd in drunken misery
and drag strip leather sex,
as Frem and Moab smoke their tires
to get 'em clean and soft and warm.
Sure, Frem lost the race, and Moab lost Judith,
who lost herself to pro hockey players.
We all lost God, and we're losing
our long-roaded obsessions.
Magnificence alone won't save us.
As Faralon said to Rangor,
“There's a hole in the ground
with my name on it,
and that suits me fine.”
Moab died at the Nationals
in Houston that March,
walking back to his hotel,
a double shotgun blast
from a Ford F-250 truck
the killer never found.
He relived that entire day,
though, bleeding on the ground,
the way he kicked his weather
and clocked miracle speed
when it counted,
proof enough, son,
of life soon beyond.
All the Sportswriters Gone
Truckers jaw breathless on the radio
warning cops, tourists, long-haulers
alike about this Sonny Liston night,
riding Grapevine rollers down
into the severest Milky Way
L.A.a night knocked down,
but gangster tough, still not sorry
it met Cassius Clay, the sky battling
its darkness in bullet holes of light,
hills slumped over dead or drunk,
something in the air, mountain lions
nostril steam, anxious to finally feed
on all this human flesh, blowouts or
engine failures will take your life.
I'm on the A/C and adult contemp,
cruise control clicked on the peak
back in Gorman, lifetime bitter
as a Brooklyn Dodgers fan,
negotiating a total flatline
from this life, the safety belt
tight against my torso, locked
in the nice affordable
Ford, proof that I behaved.
But, maybe we all got a phantom punch,
the true sportswriters dead from drink
and smoke and pastrami sandwiches
piled big and red as buffalo hearts,
their jobs gone to college kids.
So, no one's left hip to the fix.
I mean, if I choose to read a book,
catch the news or pay-per-view porno,
waiting out history's most dangerous hours
in a recliner chair, to be my best
when the East Coast opens,
pushing a special volume discount
on bathroom plumbing fixtures,
the only thing left for fathers
to teach their boys? "Toe the line, son."
Not tonight. Not my fate, mister. Tired
of reading details of my own murder,
I exit into the valley at White Oak,
and drive toward the old Sears store
where Dad worked in the appliance dept.
until they fired him for getting sick.
But first they made him cry, a new boss
from up north bringing in his own men,
my Dad begging for the sake of his six kids.
Then, he served them right one day
and woke up dead. I get a couple chili dogs
at Cupid's, and drive and wait.
A furniture store now, windows slither,
nest of snakes, in red and orange Spanish.
I'm the age Dad died, a son finally fearless
to spend the vengeance of his father's death
mine soon enough from his same heart.
I come for the killer in a place of business:
drive a car straight into the retail showroom.
But, that ain't it, is it? Broken glass never
birthed a healthy child. And, damn me
if I don't find myself in love again
with everything, saying, "Credito facile"
over and over, as if it opened treasure domes
in mountain walls. I wish once more
I was meaner and more violent like the men
who stalk fathers. Instead, I wonder
just for fun about shapeshifting
this building into hothouse flowers
or a great saguaro cactus
with just my mental powers.
I laugh. I try. I fail. Weird: this
failure hits me right as a dancer's step.
Astonished, I write down everything
on the back of my equipment order form,
slow and sure, pulling a torch from memory,
lighting what feels to be an old-country night
scheduled centuries back for monster hunts.
As if I remembered a usefulness for bliss! Quick:
I failed, yes! Failure is the impossible first step!
Mother's waiting arms! Father's origin of pride!
To fail at all this is my family's gorgeous gift:
the failed rain dance in the desert brings not water,
but extravagance of spirit! Free, now, I think
I'll practice sorcerer flight, and maybe fail
some more tonight. I'll choose my faith, my future,
my own supernatural life: I'll blow kisses one day
to all the rebel women from above 5,000 feet,
my gray suit rippling wild as slate-colored lake water
on a lousy March day, yelling "Hey, you! Fly up here,
and fail with me!" Ah, to fail at that. We need
the old sportswriters back, someone to explain
what kind of jerkgame over, crowd gone, lights off
comes out, points his bat: Our most fantastic fence.
U-boat dark, dials and gauges lit luminescent in a box of human breath, night
pressing hard as a wartime ocean. Yeah, I watched those movies, wondering how
they stayed so calm when the walls groaned at hiding depth. Now I know
disappeared, and driving by the scoop of headlights. They say you get
self-loathing from your father. But, I think it's the fatigue. The hula doll
shakes it on the van dash, her shoreline bombed with Marlboro boxes, paper
napkins from San Pedro taco stands, cash receipts, matchbooks and notes to
myself. 20 years as a housepainter, earning
enough money to be miserable. I open the window, and the night reaches in,
just as the sea took exhausted sailors, dead lover back to caress your cheek,
her fingers long and refrigerated. She wants one last fuck, and I dig the
I take the curve steady as a Rocky Mountain freight train. Sometimes, I laugh
at the young, cocky with the blank check until they cash it; find how little
money's in the bank. Carla's crazy with depression for days at a time,
slippers half-eaten by the poodle, mildew smell misting from her radiated
green bathrobe. At Spaghetti Warehouse last night, she hardly talks, as if
loneliness and hurt attack vocal chords first. Danny joined the army, when he
was doing so good at Long Beach City, and I miss him, all of him, his bounce
and crash in the hallway of our house. Doreen blames me for her teeth, but
who the hell's got $10,000? She seems to hunt the saddest boys,
and I don't know why. This night, I'm gone to Vixens, aware of what I'm
doing: a couple $20 lap dances just to take me somewhere distant, and still
be home by 10 o'clock. Quit drinking after messing up the garage, and I'd
rather go to jail than some shriveled up shrink. I worked hard, married,
raised kids as best I could, and
life didn't deliver. I could buy neither health nor safety, despite forsaking
joy and bricking time, martyred to the immobility of men these days.
Confusion is the sea; we are submariners. I sail to strippers, on an empty
map, for what Carla calls a trick of life's caress.