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Doug Knott – In Memoriam: California Poets Part 6, Thirty Poems

Doug Knott (1943-2022)

October 18th, 2023

California Poets: Part VI

Doug Knott

Thirty Poems

Poems generously provided by Janet Sager Knott

Collection of Poetry by Doug Knott

Editor: Marsha de la O


Table of Contents

  1. Grampie Wore Gray (originally “Grandfather in St. Augustine is Gone”)

  2. Astral Projection

  3. Goodbye Anxiety, Hello Franz Kafka

  4. Eat my Words

  5. Home-Schooling Myself – Pandemic High 2020

  6. Devil May Care

  7. Law of the Jungle

  8. Vanishing Point

  9. Tantric Orchard

  10. My Mother the E-Train

  11. Like a Hollywood Lawyer

  12. Pharoah Takes a Trip

  13. I Learn the Con on 42nd Street

  14. Lesson in Conversational Portuguese

  15. Home Movie in Green and White

  16. Queen of Thin Air

  17. Smart-Ball

  18. Kansas City Boilo-Boilo

  19. Flaneur New York

  20. The Aware Wolves

  21. ’s Photography Joke

  22. The Thomas Fire

  23. Apology to Greta Thunberg

  24. Sunset Strip Self-Improvement Affirmations

  25. Forgotten Museum

  26. Silver

  27. Vineyards of Fresno

  28. I Become Surreal at an Art Opening

  29. Reverse-World

  30. Walk like an Early Man



Originally “Grandfather in St. Augustine is Gone” (Doug Knott Rev 9-10-21)

He was the coolest guy

Gave me a little bicycle when I was 6

which I learned to ride on the stone path around

The grand old Spanish fort, its walls 30 feet thick,

later occupied by English invaders,

and then the militant Confederacy --

the best fort ever for a little boy!

Grampie played a card-game

Called Russian Bank with 4 decks

And two players, and when I played with him

He remembered every trick

And hid behind his fan of cards,

murmuring, “bad, bad, bad”

and then nailed me with his hidden Queen, of course --

So I appreciated his military technique

His own father a lieutenant in the Confederate Army

His father’s father, a private in the same,

My grandfather was proud of the Army of Northern Virginia

And made sophisticated jokes about President Lincoln,

pointed out the battles, like Chancellorsville

And Olustee just out of Jacksonville

where “we done beat the Yankee” and

killed 500 Union soldiers

200 of whom were black

But my grandfather was buddies with an old black guy

Named Singleton, who rode a bicycle

and fixed things around the house

They cruised around together side by side

in the wide front seat of grandfather’s old Cadillac;

But on my dad’s side, my uncle in Tallahassee

Threw me out of the house after I did the big Selma march in ’65 -

Said I stunk like the N-word

But I was glad to go

And left Dixie and the Lost Cause to go to school

Up North in Yankeeland where they called me “South’ner,”

so I dropped my cracker accent to fit in

and even said I was from New York, New York, and started

Talking like I was Jewish from Brooklyn; and then

the South got real un-popular

But I was in the Civil Rights generation

marching in the big marches because I thought it was right

And became a beatnik type of modern person

Although I am no longer modern,

But peeking over the edge of my personal world

As it extends day-to-day and flat like a map,

which means I will soon fall off the edge

Into “here be dragons & sea monsters”

And it looks like the Confederate Army has come around again

Now flying the banner of the criminal ex-president

Except without the bravery, dignity and honesty

Of my grandfather --

And I know how they think: that they got screwed

and will stand tall and fight back against invaders,

And how tough they are, and how much they love the orange-haired demon

Who spews insect lies to inspire their fierce Cause, now Lost,

They are the most righteous form of man

And they will not respond to peace

Because they are accustomed to casual hate,

Like the chewed cigar gone sour in the bowl

And I see them on the other side of me

Like Arjuna, the mythical prince of India

saw his own family rigged out and carrying swords

On the enemy side in the “Bhagvad Gita;”

But I don’t ride in Krishna’s stone chariot of mind;

I ride my mental bicycle around a lucky fort called home

And my grandfather is 50 years all bones

In the disintegrating swamp of history

With his battle-winning cards from the game of Russian Bank,

Sentimental affection for the Stars and Bars,

And a little boy’s love;

He’s all fermented in his box under the Spanish moss,

the verdant stink of the salt marshes

always near the nose in St. Augustine

sweat even in the shade

and now only a memory

a movie about to end,

that little bicycle rolling downhill

through the last bars of the ancestral song

“In Dixie land where I was born,

look away, look away”

Richmond, Virginia, 1943

Going, going,

and gone


2. Astral Projection (DOUG KNOTT rev 2-22-22)

I never went out-of-body

til I partied with my law school roommates

and crashed on top of my bed curled up and drunk as a bat.

In the middle of the night I woke

Suspended above that bed

and floated down the hallway

bumping lightly on the ceiling,

being a living but invisible cloud.

This was no dream. I went bump against the wall

like a rubber elephant in a swimming pool,

that is also a cage

At the top of the brown kitchen door I blew up

with fear in great yellow lightning bolts

lashing against my dirigible of air:

I did some quick throbs against the ceiling

And my blood sucked out in panic

like low tide in the Bay of Fundy

And I deeply feared I would never ever

get back into my beloved body -

So I shouted to my essence, “Stop this experience!”

And in an instant I was back over my own body

under me and still in bed, curled up like a coat I had just put down

and I snapped back into my flesh

and was again secure -

Such is the fear of permanent nowhere

When I hear (infrequently) of astral projection,

I smile to myself.

The earth is my mother and I’m not going anywhere

There’s that doorway where everybody

leaves the house and goes into the back yard after dark

the color of the that grass I’ll find out

Meanwhile, I’ll stay in bed.




(Doug Knott rev 2-20-22)

It was a trial of sand

With evidence of self-burial

A lifetime of waving many legs in the air

Trying to turn over

What kind of impression will I make on God?

Will he find me wanting, or simply odd?

I want acquittal in the conflict

of loving and rejection of love,

Because I was too young at the time.

Yes, I admit taking part in my own physical decline

living on without permission or even good taste

I’m quite a specimen to scuttle along so long

A few bedsores, but still eager.

Maybe it was all a reflection

Or my own invidious projection --

And I was the only one fooled. Damn.

The earth doesn’t turn, it leans.

Give me a verdict with a center of gravity

And I promise to ignore it.



Eat my Words (Doug Knott 6-1-21)

I am a speck of living gland,

with a very short attention span.

My thoughts fly off into the void

like a spaceman’s breath

My face, re-purposed

As a tiny moon

Or as a small spaceship --

Full personal expression at last!

Just from very far away

The words appear first in single file,

Then crowd the page

Start to shout

I lose track of their individual faces

They press up against me like I was the Pope in a Pope-mobile

They need me, but it’s transactional

All day long people pop up like billboards or on zoom

Thank God for them, otherwise I’d be a lonely planet.

I read their messages and advertisements,

Subtle, overt, unconscious –

Sometimes a filmy look – (particularly if on zoom)

but without coming to any conclusions,

Although I would like to deny the past

Or any confrontation.

I should embrace the sweetness of the past

Even if it never was --

It’s ketchup on ghost-burgers of memory

Small questions spill like a bag of fries:

Reality: is it “show” or “tell?”

Is theology really comedy?

Who helps who control who?

After dinner I wash familiar dishes

Like a cat cleaning its paws

I eat meat, too, but I’d never kill it,

Unless my car did it for me.

Poetry is so cruel


Home-Schooling Myself (Doug Knott 3-16-21)

The self-help books said I could not grab the sky,

Because I already contained the sky.

So I went halfway down the stairs

Wanting to explore Death

Saw that very guy with his tacky black wheelbarrow

Standing at the bottom. Mutual thumbs up!

“See you in a while,” he said,

“Try to have a good time.”

Social distancing is lonely

Home is creative detention

I pound tiny fists on an anonymous keyboard

Ideas thick as a cornfield

About our national conniption and decline --

Which I believe is the true dialectic of history

Like after we’ve had it good,

We have to have it bad

And my efforts are futile except

The good lung exercise shouting to liberal friends on the phone

And my wife deplores my athletic trips to the grocery store

Where I buy meat in big plastic containers that are themselves

a symbol of why our fossil-fuel society cannot endure.

People on TV are asking, “What was this year, 2020?”

Well, only metaphors can comprehend abstractions,

Like what is inside a lump of time?

The way we make circles with our minds.

I am defying gravity by talking on the page –

What do you do for kicks?


6. DEVIL-MAY-CARE (Doug KnottEd-Fin V. 5-23-22)

Dark thoughts are not wrong thoughts.

They are migrant shadows.

There’s nothing to laugh at here in the ho-ho hills

because oneself is the big laugh

held back til the author

gets out of range

through time, distance, death, or no

media presence

Nervous and perverse,

pushing emotional commotion

Satan turns out to be a comedian



THE LAW OF THE JUNGLE (Doug Knott ED-Fin 5-24-22)

There is no jungle

Only the dense air between us

The old lion is my father

Who calls me in for his last words,

Which are that he wants to sue his doctor

Who was new, didn’t put the tube in right

Or take the time to even be nice

He wants to sue my cousin

Who by stealth took all the good furniture

When the old folks died in Tallahassee,

And even though my father signed a receipt

...he was deceived!

And those people down the street need to get sued, too –

For that house they have, that we should have.

Pressed for the year of this bad deal,

He admitted it was 1955

His last question was, are these good causes?

Do they “have merit?”

Which means, can we draw blood?

You see, like him, I am a lawyer

And like him, a skinny beast

And I said, on several metaphorical levels –

Because I am no longer a lawyer,

That the costs would outweigh the benefits.

We nodded wisely together,

Like trees by a river

And I left him in his lair

An emaciated old lion

Bemoaning a lack of teeth.



Vanishing Point - (Rev 5-24-22 Doug Knott)

(new poem from Van-Pt; decision to break it into 2 poems, this is the first one, called “Van-Pt ONE” or “Mom at Sea” THE 2ND “VAN-PT TWO”


My mother has gone to sea at last

Out beyond the channel markers

The horizon already

Bobs up and down

I see her from the shore and call,

And call, but she will never read this poem.

I have looked for her in voice mails

And greeting cards and never

Found her: our linkage

Was a vanishing point,

Something like that horizon

Appearing first as a lost island,

Then a white sail,

Then a mirage

And now as her abandoned mooring

washes up on the shore,

I see her as the girl she once told me she was,

testing something deep inside herself

out of sight of land and the eyes of men

on the raw, gray Atlantic



Alone in her wooden sixteen-footer,

The bow curling up ahead, her hand

Guides the 1932 Evinrude outboard motor

Hanging over the single plank behind her.

In this deep water beyond the easternmost reef

She is captain supreme,

Her body a trigger,

Her mind flashes between water and light –

While her body totters around her apartment,

Her hands shake too much to hold a dinner plate.

She has packed her gear in that little boat

She always kept, but kept hidden from everyone,

Pulled up in the shore reeds of passing years

Until she would need it.

She is ready again to take to the sea,

Where the waves quiver like smoke

And the distant roar coming closer and closer

To her ear from beneath her pillow at night

Is the huge white beating of wings



THE TANTRIC ORCHARD (Doug Knott Ed-Fin 5-24-22)

For Janet

I am so lucky to have found this orchard

With you in it.

Under the soil our roots embrace

Like small animals driven underground

The twisted branches of the apple trees reach

Back to touch their thighs.

Such springtime muscles

Shot off this green cannonball of earth

Lie on the wet grass with me

Like fruit we swell and rub against each other

Kiss like raindrops in the milky sunlight

Grasping roots inside you

I will transplant them in a shrine

Alive with wet green dripping things

That shake themselves awake

And I will visit you with blue lakes and reckless hills

And we will watch the big white summer birds fly by

Like abandoned opportunities searching for their season.

Around us, black grappling branches orchestrate the air

which parts, and endlessly parts again.

The whole orchard ripples in a soft green chord

Where the land ends, and the feelings begin



My Mother the E Train

E-train crosses Manhattan, turns down West Side.

On the yellow-stripe platform,

Attention sucked by sharp bright light

People clench butt-muscles

Grip bags, turn up-track like

meerkats for the familiar stranger

with the roar that jiggles flesh

Stand up for the E train,

Stand up for the might of door!

This sandworm with

the same steel mouth at both ends

can eat through formerly secure island granite

with the speed of pornography

Up there on 5th avenue, there’s

Concrete and hypocrisy, plus

Delight in shop windows.

The real weight of all that concrete

Is both finite and infinite.

Rich people are holding up banks

People walk with umbrellas pitched against cloud and rain

Water towers stagger on roofs

We’re just a wriggle in the terrarium

Reeling around the west side.

My buttocks slam against the wall,

And I celebrate humility, efficiency, electricity,

Survival and abuse, and in this car,

Enjoy the migration of other urban creatures --

Namely the decrepit, the one-legged, the wool-capped,

The glamorous, the highly-pressed

And all those who have sex inside their suits

Up-river in the spawning grounds, or

Downtown towards the sea of birth

That girl looks thoughtful

Between earphones like teardrops --

She’s going to eat her phone!

I want to see her mouth open silver and red

And the metal stop talking

Stand up for Spring Street – what spring is that?

Expulsion into cold dull day

Tourniquet of noon.

Threading pedestrians, I

Walk fast as a winter riddle,

But it’s only for lunch with a friend -

a pasta restaurant with floppy noodles

in an all-night, all-eyes city

Which is itself a restless hunter,

And I got here invisibly --

Because nobody who saw me

saw me



Like a Hollywood Lawyer – ED-Fin 5-25-22

Poetry does not require cash.

Life and movies require cash.

Walter required a lawyer -

I required cash,

And threw in some poetry for interest

Walter, an old-time indie movie producer

A phone-in-each-ear guy,

Talked twisty as a Mobius stripper,

Made deals in a whisper

I, as lawyer, a casual bottom feeder,

Not tough but easy,

Enjoyed Walter, his hair slick

Just back from Cannes

Walter, an anaconda,

was too fat to get in my Mini-Cooper

But took movies to Cannes,

the big topless international film festival,

And sold them on a burnished yacht deck

Under big bright breasts of sun.

Distribution followed. Burp.


We sat in the rented Laurel Canyon pool-house office

at the end of the sculpted blue swimming pool

Where stars once swam breast-stroke,

And Walter and I now contemplated astronomical sales.

People sued, but that was expected

even among the good guys.

However and hereinbefore,

no trademark, patent or copyright infringement

Could catch our legal moonwalk.

I watched as clients entered the pool-house, stage left.

There was a heave in the gabled structure

As they were consumed!

Out came Walter, brimming with contracts

I had copied from genius form-books

Relieved smiles by the swimming pool,

And odes to the 4-cornered prose I composed,

All about “Roll-over tax years,” “Trigger that loan,”

and “Who’s exposed?”

If you ever see the phrase, “Kindly be advised,”

Get out of town



PHAROAH TAKES A TRIP (Doug Knott Ed-Fin 5-25-22)

The secret passageway

Is long and narrow with bas-reliefs.

Great serpents flail on either side

The queen’s head is red

Her breast is white travertine.

Kings and servants proceed with stony verve.

Water-bearers ochre in side panels

Carry only the idea of water,

But reveal love of body and rank

Sand mixes indefinitely

with prayers all gone to dust,

bathing the stores of dried dates, golden trinkets

and dead servants, now bones, Pharoah will

need in the timeless afterlife

where his sun always boasts a victorious campaign

and the Nile is the gallery of the known world

Whether the world goes up or down

Pharoah sleeps in painted incarnation

with gods like angels of prey roosting

on his sunset-colored barge.

No captain but the hour-glass

This barge was built

Not to sail on water

But through time



I Learn the Con on W 42nd St. (by Doug Knott rev 6-1-2)

Period: mid-60s, about 10 years after publication of Ginsberg’s “HOWL.”

Old West 42ND Street, decades

Before Disney and the mayor ordered cleanup;

The parade of dirty-movie marquees, smut

now sealed in black-and-white photos by time

Time itself a dissipating gas

I sailed through exploring my early self,

And I can say the thrills were cheap indeed

On that street-wand of emotional dilation

A wicked finger off Times Square

My arteries are now blocked for miles

but I thought 42nd St. in the mid-60’s was creepy cool

a block party in the shadow of mid-town ad-men

with locals rampant, and strangers moving fast as fish,

I was from a small town, where people said “How-ya-do”

and didn’t lock their cars

So I was driven by the gravity of perversion

To lift up the floorboards of life and burrow...

Like William S. Burroughs

I know from peep shows, little sex revues

Wood walls that themselves stink,

Bums on too-many-bums row

Staircases you don’t want to go up

People that hate themselves in public,

Places you hear gush and whine through flimsy wall-paper

All sordid -- sordidity itself was the theme,

Not sex, no satisfaction.

XXX equals zero

This was not porn, but threat of porn with twist of crime.

A gorgeous setting for self-recrimination.

I had to ground myself

in fervent long-johns and empty groin

Un-satisfied by any of the sexual organs tottering in front of me.

Those marquees just echoed staked-out gasps of fantasies

Everyone knew were fake

Like a tour of Hollywood Universal in LA –

fake piled on fake.

There I mingled with hustlers

In line for construction jobs, no less --

And a guy nudged me in a short line,

This guy in a smudged fedora and nose like a pickle

told my 19-year-old self

He would give me back my 10 bucks

I had just handed him (because I wanted a friend),

And he wanted some quick medicine,

Heart stuff... This standing in the freezing wind

was getting to his bones

“Meet ya over der at Jack Dempsey’s restaurant” –

It gleamed chrome back on Broadway

with an aura of companionship.

“I‘ll give ya the 10 back, plus fried eggs and spuds for interest” --

(Remember how Jack himself used to show up in the back room?

the former heavy-weight champion of the world – in person!

Glazing it over with admirers of the ring)

And this guy said – “When Jack comes out at 11am you’ll get it back.”

So little me was there! But I found out:

(Jack only came out after midnight

and no one showed at 11am because they never did.)

And I considered that I learned about 42nd street

The easy way, and actually quite cheaply

And that street’s hustlers and whores,

barkers, strippers and pickle-face fedoras

Now only appear on internet sites

(where they are bigger and more sordid than they ever were on 42nd)

Maybe Jack was coming out, after all.

Maybe I’d get my 10 bucks back, and be recognized

like the man I was becoming,

Maybe this crowd boiling like pasta penne

with old bones thrown in the pot

outside the steamed-up window of Jack Dempsey’s place

that cast reflections of sin --

Maybe this thin New York

winter sunlight of nuclear ambition

that embraces light and dark, sordidity and sanctitude --

Maybe this black-and-white historic hat-brim photo I make in words

That crowd boiling over their own feet

includes a little egg of me



Lesson in Conversational Portuguese (By Doug Knott – Ed-Fin V. 5/25/22)

After a prayer meeting with the spurting of chicken blood

In the dusty and livid interior of Brazil

The father of the saints (pae dos santos)

Who had killed the chicken

Earlier that afternoon

Took a liking to me

“Voce tem o preconceito mistico?” -

“Are you of the mystical persuasion?”

“Tenho, sim,” I said – “Sure, of course, dude”

“Entao, eu so faco bem” – “I just do good,” he said,

In a juicy morse-code flicker of offering

That raced over my heart like a fleet of gazelles

Mas si voce quiser mal” – “But if you want ‘the bad,’

I know someone who can help”

I declined, with some regret at opportunity lost

In the quick tropical sunset

Reversed and flat like a bed-sheet –

But I had respect for this father of umbanda

Like the toad has for the wheel

“Voce tem o preconceito mistico?”

On the chair, my hands shook like bamboo

Of course, I have seen the fountains go out in someone’s eyes

And the struggle under the skin

I follow the run-away heart;

In Brazil, I got into a big taxi-cab

And got the hell out of there

When I got far away, I felt backwards behind me

And he was still there, a faint lamp on a dark street

With the air slightly twitching around him

And in my wallet was a fresh card that did not exist.

It said: “Eu so faco bem” – “I only do good.”



Home Movie in Green and White (by Doug Knott Rev 6-1-21)

The pale house with the green shutters open

Let the afternoon sun into the room

Where I hit my sister in the head

With a baseball bat

Not during the official season

But during the eternal season of the child

Shutters agape, the ball flew out

Like a random pistol shot

That yet held the whole house hostage;

The windows shook like birdcages

With small birds trying to get out.

I foolishly tried to hang on inside

The sloping bluegrass lawn fell down

Before the street; my father

Rolled down the new-mown grass, drunk

With the neighbor’s wife in his arms

Both of them laughing

Covered with little green blades

I put the baseball bat back in the closet

And the house settled on a new foundation

Slightly closer to hell



Queen of Thin Air

People move slowly on the slopes

of Whitney as if underwater, express

surprise that I’m old and still a-grunting –

body a hyper-ventilating machine

fashioned from mortal sticks, will-

power pellets, self-denied dreams,

forgotten lust, muscles that hold

personal trauma like hot dog buns –

and a desire for transcendence from it all!

Or I wouldn’t even be here

stuck like an insect on God’s bulletin board

with spires and twisty necks

of rock. And such a long way down.

I pursued a bogus casual agenda

to a bargain-basement realization –

This jagged stairway banded with slick ice

might lead to a tremulous afterlife.

The day’s dark blue and disappearing in

the giddy void. I lift and crook up rock

and more rock, going sideways in halls

of shimmering granite, past spaceships

of stone ribbed in ice, and me outside

desperate for air.

Inhale breath, thin as rock is thick.

Dare not take eyes off booted feet.

Hand grabs an angle of stone, eyes

stare far upstairs into the birdless

blue smile of the queen of thin air

in whose cobalt presence mere lungs

expire and unbodied souls intone

“Welcome to Vertigo

The state without any boundaries at all.”


Smart-Ball (Rev 9-3-21 Doug Knott)

I’m the king of shadows hanging out

With all mankind on the sunny side

of the globe, like a fortune cookie

You find sometime when you feel brilliant

And want to play Smart-Ball –

What did I say when I found out there wasn’t any End,

and no one can say what’s Real?

That God was so smart he invented history -

In his big old bang chair with the dark and greasy arms

He let me hang on to my subway map, bong and interior violence

So I could play Smart-Ball with vigor

Like a fervent mass in a cloud chamber

Somewhere between particle and wave.

We all need heroes, and I quote

The late famous physicist with the wheel-chair and talk-box;

The wiggly lines coming out of him revealed

Space warps in the presence of matter --

And gravity is love between stars.

Length, width, height and time --

That guy had Big Bang shrapnel in the brain.

Such an expert at Smart-Ball!

I thought I’d gained the ability

to at least stand up to myself,

But I had lied to my own diary,

mostly about my psychic ability.

When I read my own red-green-and-yellow aura, I said

My mind is a series of punitive self-images,

And I’m a prisoner of words and grammar.

When I talked I thought I was tap-dancing

How they hide the truth about schizophrenia,

Which is that two heads are better than one,

And being bipolar -- might give you one for free!

Best bargains are had choosing a new body-mind

between life-times --

That’s how you win at Smart-Ball



Kansas City Boilo-Boilo (by Doug Knott Ed-Fin 5/26/22)

Old KC on the bluffs of the Missouri

verdant and pecked by the carnivorous sun.

On perilous vast old brick factory heights

appear faded names painted 10 feet high

like “Equip.,” “Co.” and “Bagley & Sons” –

This is a working town, a union town

A pause in the torpid middle of things,

Old frame houses and lump-stone bungalows

lean back into the past,

while sunlight pours down like

fried chicken-steak gravy on this

Humid world left over from American Eden

And inside Mama’s restaurant, we traveling poets,

Fresh and agile on tour of the Mid-west

fill up on high-class carbohydrates

and sweat even in the air-conditioning.

While salt, ketchup and red Tabasco

bomb down on eggs, bacon and fries,

we cluck over the table about our hero

The endless forever Jack Kerouac,

and how they didn’t honor him

in Lowell, Mass., city of his birth,

until his name made goddamn money –

goddamn bastards!

We all visit Charlie “Bird” Parker’s flat white grave

In the old “Lincoln cemetery for Negroes” muffled by green stallion oaks.

Remember how the coroner said, “I thought he was 60,”

When Bird’s inner saxophone burst at 34?

Today we go our own ways:

Scott, the sage of Florence, Ore., visits

Satchel Paige in the Negro Baseball League museum.

Mike and Mike go groove on the paintings of

Thomas Hart Benton in his own stone house museum.

Huge oil paintings with fields of wheat

heaving around in the wind

like bleached-out pompadours on 50’s hipsters,

all the figures curvy and bent over

in gusts that exist only on canvas.

Speakeasy gangster clouds

hang out over the horizon all boilo-boilo.

But I read Benton as the straight-ass art teacher

of alcoholic, attenuated Jackson Pollock

who took his giant step off the cliff of art --

we should all be so lucky to tumble like that.

And it’s me who wants to surf barbeque joints

To go to 18th and Vine, and the year 1932

when KC was the jazz capital of the continent,

if not the jazz-borne nicotine world.

Paint fades, but energy lingers

in the old signs and marquees,

though no human can be seen –

except that rusty old codger in the short-brim fedora

who watches me take photos,

his folding chair leaning back

into the black wall shadows

in Kansas City, MO --

where it’s 101 in the shade

By heart-aching loops of the broad Missouri,

long-distance cold-water runner from the Rockies, and --

America’s loneliest river



Flaneur New York (Doug Knott Ed-Fin 5-31-22)

Today I walk happy and alone

Amid benches and left-over folk,

Their bottles and blankets,

Listening for the tip-toe of the heart

Being an artist and boulevardier

At large, I revel in

the pleasure of every glance.

Each gaze, averted or direct,

Into another’s eyes

Is a door into summer or sorrow

A tune grazes my ear

It bursts into song that stomps off --

Love is too temporary

To remember those words

I have words, but no place to stay,

Except a worried couch downtown.

Nearby voices boil up to my ear,

along with steam radiators,

Friendly shouts, trucks that grunt.

A rush-hour pileup of gears and horns

Even a lucky rent-control apartment makes a person

A prisoner of this city – where rooftops, watertanks, gargoyles and now video cameras observe even dog-walkers,

reelers, power-people getting somewhere advanced,

lovers hunched against a wall

And I am a butterfly of mental flaps

A pseudo-plane with pastel wings, perched

on a moment of the impossible –

Under the sky’s breathless blue lung

Central Park‘s an enormous secret

With grass growing on top



THE AWARE WOLVES (By Doug Knott Ed-Fin 6-1-22)

To the aware wolves belong

The space between ghosts

And night of eggplant dark

The moon, itself a wandering soul,

Peers through tree-tops

At my heart – a deer frozen

In a forest of eyes, lupine

And shaped like leaves

I know they are near

I hear them when they call

My name. Summoning me

Is entertainment

At my own expense

They lope alongside me

And when I look at them

Their eyes get bigger

I treat them now as my children

Feed them everything I have.

And at night I draw these friends around me

and look up at the moon

Awash in darkness, and hunger is

A long wail in the night



O.J.’s Photography Joke (Rev 9-19-21 by Doug Knott)

Mid-90’s between the trials

O.J. sat alone at the bar in Santa Monica,

His high point because he had just been acquitted

Of the murders, and the civil suit was still in his pocket.

Everybody knew him

so I made no small talk: like, “Are you Mr. Simpson...? (Duh)

“Can I have my picture taken with you?” I asked instead,

Loving the thrill of edge and notoriety.

No one had any doubt he had killed his blonde wife

and the young man with the round glasses

So I sat down next to a double murderer

In a haze of celebrity that drifted like cigar smoke

My butt safe in a public bar

And O.J., courteous and lavish with demeanor of a crime boss

Said, “Sure, my man,” and flipped his alligator hand

clasping my shoulder like a buddy on TV.

I called my friend from the other room

To take a photo with my disposable camera -

Me with the Heisman football trophy winner

Presently holding off the biggest murder rap in the world

And the damn photo flash wouldn’t go off!

As an amateur photographer

I know you need flash to shoot black people in gloomy rooms

because pre-digital film goes dark quicker than the eye

“Take it again and make sure that flash works!” I exclaimed,

And O.J., whose side-gig was comic movie acting, said,

“I won’t take that as a racist remark --- ”

Quite a specific photography joke

He was in great humor and charisma

And folded me close to him for the photo.

I felt the strength of muscles hard as a python

A great athlete gone jealous and feral

Now strutting around in public, because --

that’s show-biz!

And me too -- I was the fan-boy, now with souvenir

A photo located in an album now in storage

all light-smeared because my friend

Bobbled the camera, but you can see

Me and O.J. in a bright circus of nostalgia

I even felt high from his charisma

which my friend picked up on

and he wanted to have his picture taken,

so we went back into the bar

But O.J. had shape-shifted through a silent back door --

Except he made loud news when jail finally came --

And now he’s out with old-man jowls, a limp

and the Mark of Cain on his forehead –

And like Cain, no one can touch him

because he’s the artist of the broken field

Who ran through football, the woman, public opinion,

His own conscience, the sentence and the jail,

All the way to that bar with me in Santa Monica

And even I thank him

for that polite moment between murder trials



The Thomas Fire (by Doug Knott Rev 9-3-21)

11pm power kaput in the house.

Emotion revs like a race-car.

Sudden dark – flashlight where?

Walk outside - no sound, only

Mulch crunch. No car, no one.

Turn corner, OMG, brilliant stage lights blasting on the ridge –

It must be Hollywood! What, no director?

From left to right a yellow horizon --

It’s Genghis Khan with his golden horde

A thousand arms of leopard swords.

Fire loves wind and rides to the ocean

On wind, a great horse

Stars hide behind a curtain of fog and smoke

all ruddy and gold, reflecting incendiary baths below.

Bright yellow seizures of light on the hillsides.

Our lives gasp and are juicy underneath.

Get out of here, get out of here – and keep in mind,

No power, no gas pump til Thousand Oaks.

I bust out of Ojai down the 33

Breathing like an animal on four wheels

Horses of fire race on the high left side

And all the little trees who couldn’t run and so combusted

Are illuminated hair-doos screaming: “you can’t stop this” --

They’ll be sticking out like black snaggles

Where the fire horses of Genghis

Went crazy and dragged civilization over the hill.

What’s a fire but a thousand visitors who don’t pay

And leave their black clothes all over the floor?


Apology to Greta Thunberg. How about that Climate Change? (Doug Knott 12-7-19)

You’re right, kid!

We spent it, we drove it,

we burned it, we fueled it

We bought it, we rode it,

But we didn’t pay for it –

Didn’t know it was your future, too -

We are your distinguished elders

And came of age just before the peak of the wave

and we’ve surfed it to the shore, rolling in like pearls.

We’re the coolest, we didn’t even work for it,

it just got laid on us by the big living earth Gaia -

“Yes” - she said, “take my breast”

and we took her blood, skin and bones, too.

And our generation has enjoyed every possibility of living

whatever we want, wherever we choose to go.

We are the party of freedom - meaning

we partied with freedom

Now we’re those hard-boiled eggs in the sunset

What do you want from us?

Please deliver your rage to our chattering class,

We are the tribe - the human tribe –

And we welcome you to this fat-ball planet

Where we’re all born out of God’s Word

And when we get hungry

We go out on the crinkle-bulgy landscape

and kill kill kill a big elephant to feed our tribe.

Lots of meat meat meat we eat eat eat

Then dance pray fuck – then pray fuck dance

Afterwards, sleepity-sleep.

Then... get up, have coffee -- and make civilization! –

hammocks, clay pots, sexy figurines of gods,

Broadway plays - we create a world of light and dark

Sex, poetry, ocean-going plastic, capitalism, terrorism, religion

A house fantastic for us alone!

O throw open the green shutters of the world, and

make it brown and naked.

Enough – We hungry again!

Let’s get another elephant --

Or at least an In-and-Out Burger

There’s always more food, isn’t there?

It will all work out ...somehow

There will be a solution ...somehow

But somehow, all that gets fuzzy when I try to think about it.

I can’t shoot that hoop of what to do

You say the only way is massive political action

No oil, and don’t eat nothing in plastic?

Not a chance, even if everyone else does it!

Who helps who control who?

The earth is so stressed digesting us

Where can it shit, except on you?

So sorry, we knew, but didn’t know

and now you know, but what to do?

Also there is no individual guilt,

We’re all absolved and complicit.

All I ever did was drive my car and turn on

the house-lights and some air-con --

Me such a tiny, ordinary consumer!

In case the planet might shrug us off

You might consider the intrinsic death-wish of the species.

And all that plastic in the guts of whales?

We share the gifts.

Climate change is a spiritual vaccination

For those of us on the edge of the afterlife.

The seas will rise, the continents fall

I thought I’d never live to see it happen,

But I was wrong.



Sunset Strip Self-Improvement Affirmations (By Doug Knott Ed-Fin 6-2-22)

There is always the feeling of wind

Even when there is no wind

The coat wants to turn up

Young women in tight black clothes

Project cold blond sex

Slip out in gum-chewing 3’s and 4’s

From dark fertility-cars

They are fires waiting to jump

Fire-lanes, to enter the music smog

In the club owned by the famous movie actor

In front of which the famous kid movie-star

Fell down and died from too much good will

And chemical thrills from his good friends.

On the sidewalk his fans built home-made altars

Like kalideoscopic Mexican gods

With flowers in their hair

The guys take off their shirts

And show their tattoos at closing time

In front of the tattoo store.

The girls look at them with smiles like eclipsing planets.

All the way down in their bellies

Their faces turn up to the stars

People drive more wildly on this street,

Holding phones to their ears in their cars.

Figures on big billboards peer down

Like a row of giants on a drawbridge

Who appear intimate but are

Secretly filing for divorce

And the “Whiskey” and the “Roxy”

Feature rock bands that are named after

Toilets, boomerangs and kitchenware;

And I want a motorcycle -

I’ve never had a motorcycle

And everybody here is a little bit behind,

Or in front of, the cameras.

In the bookstore, I stood in line

Beside Donald Sutherland, one of my favorite actors,

And I almost vaulted the aisle to grab his arm

And tell him how much I admired his work, particularly in

Nicholas Roeg’s dark Venetian drama.

But I held back my racing heart

To give him space to breathe alone

In the illusory world where he is not recognized.

In the gas station I pump gas

Next to the formerly famous male model

With the blond hair extensions and big pectorals

Whom they never let speak in public;

I knew it was him when a girl with a narrow ticket face

Approached and pulled his autograph while we pumped

And I said, ‘It’s you, right, you’re that movie guy?”

And he said, “No, not him,” and I said “OK,”

Because it was wonderful enough to me that he denied it,

But then he stood behind me to pay at the cashier

And I turned and said again, “You’re that movie guy,

Aren’t you?” And he said “Yes, it’s me, it’s me,

It’s me’ -- and we were both gratified.

I had just seen this male model

As a standup comic cardboard cut-out

In the greeting-card store window up the street

This is the city of movies, not ‘films’ –

Of package, persuasion and negative pickups

In the financing of all life, including executives

Who seek preference in restaurant seatings

Like packs of militant seals.

And this is the street that serves up

Its own name as part of the deal.

Sunset Boulevard in the dog-breath night!

The long cars line up in lacy steel brocade

Outside the restaurants loaded

With people who generate international states of mind

And dubious cultural symbols –

And it’s time for the hit-men, the pitch-men,

The agents and the one-line guys

To roll the big cameras like dice

And no one forgets to be seen leaving a substantial tip

Under the wheels - which roll down this street

Walking distance from the health food store,

Hustler, the all-night gym, and many fine hotels

The traffic lights blink and automobile shadows

Move across me; it’s the movie

That kicks in when I close my eyes:

It’s the movie where I’m always the star --

Waiting for the light to change

Waiting for the big change

City of stars,

Neighborhood of strangers

It will happen for me...

It will happen for me...

It will happen for me...

It will happen for me...



Forgotten Museum (by Doug Knott Ed-Fin 6-3-22)

Sit with me a while

On this green park bench

My friend, the artist

I’ll hold you while --

we grow older.

You just had an opening

And people you didn’t even know

Got inside you

You’re an artist, so

I understand.

You’ve opened your lungs;

A big exhale can be overwhelming

You can rest on me like a raft.

The risk of exposure –

What’s the pay-off, cringe or preen?

I can see your face

Blossom out on that thankless plain

Nobody sees the leaves grow around us,

This park bench with overcoat of green.

Join me under the covers

Of smiles, daubs of forever green

And past lovers, now solitary,

fuming with dreams



Silver by Doug Knott

I see its starry swath

Trail off in the air

As I polish knives and spoons

Years ago I polished kitchen silver

With a Tibetan Lama Rinpoche

Who spit, and rubbed

And showed me the magic sparks that fly

From the ends of forks and knives,

And then he whispered,

“And do you know what

is the most beautiful thing in the world?”

He smiled like a jade gate.

“It is – the woman.”

I was both stunned and pleased

And thought that he

Was either a really wise man

Or a very good comedian

And I have carried the buried ax-handle

Of this knowledge until tonight

As I watch you

Take off your clothes

And gusts of night-metal fly

Off your body.

You turn, and the silver trap within me

Snaps shut at the core


The Vineyards of Fresno

It’s a harbor in this green world

My metal folding chair on the edge

Of the scraped earth; the shadow

Cast down by the mulberry tree

All crazy with moving leaves

Shelters me as I skip my thoughts

Like flat rocks over incoming

Green legions of vines

The old man who owned these vineyards

Died two months ago; suddenly, his

Soul hissed off from this hot earth.

His niece, the lawyer from the big city

Is here to search the sullen oceans

Of papers on the floor; papers angry

At being disturbed; the old man

just walked over them.

“There is the sun, and there

is the way out,” he must have said

as he clambered over the hills of bills

and invoices cluttered on the dark floors,

strangle-weeds of farm business underfoot.

And now he reaches the door

And now holding on to the light,

He enters the laughing green circus of vines.



I don’t look for truth around here

People live quite happily without it

Going around each other in their long forms

Even though they are standing still

Just now I was talking to

Someone I didn’t know

And their face fell off

And my face fell off

Our expressions rolled

In pieces at our feet.

My watch still worked.

Otherwise I was out of time.

Contrary to popular opinion

Most of the people in this room

Are quite innocent

They have not heard

Of themselves yet


REVERSE-WORLD (by Doug Knott Ed-Fin 6/3/22)

She wanted a willow tree and got a hammer

a coverlet of stars and got a suitcase

-- of chaos, no less

She wanted a machine that made furniture

And got one that played emotional music

One of me was enough.

Good feels bad, and bad feels good.

The king of winds pulled out the ice-card

And pointed me true north –

Even though I started out inside the sun

Nuclei distended and popping.

Hot desire in solar flares.

That was a vacation

The door going “in” was marked “out”

But she pushed hard

And I got through



WALK like an EARLY MAN (Doug Knott)

Walking like an early man into the pandemic every day

Feels like jungle with white, transparent trees

The way the days blur into each other

The world transmutes without a snap

I forget doctor appointments

The growing death toll

Deliberate dementia in social media

And the economy –

How about Wall St. sticking up there like a liquor-store sign?

Get ready for the sucker-punch.

Schools open or closed, mask or no-mask?

Will the kids be held back?

Do I want to be a schmuck and keep moaning?


Is our national shadow

Nobody better tell anybody what to do

The white permission of the endless frontier --

We could just run away from it all!

But it’s already gone;

They want to suspend the laws,

destroy elections and democracy.

We’re the hung-up ones

Suspended on a trapeze of TV

How do we get out

And when is gravity

going to take hold?



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