Standing before me
is the naked beauty of possibility—
perfect eyes, perfect lips
perfect hot-and-fresh-off-the-griddle everything.
And I can’t even get up outta trouble’s gutter
to reach her.

’Cause all the wars raging through the world
all the famine, poverty, greed,
earthquakes, hurricanes, oil spills, and disease
got my soul stuck down here
in the gutter’s metaphysical infirmary
right alongside Mother Nature and all her woes,

and history with its terminal amnesia,
so bloated with regret and forgetfulness
it can’t even touch its toes.

And maybe that’s not the Grim Reaper
I’m glimpsing outta the corner of my eye.
Maybe it’s just me
slowly dying of loneliness.

Either way, I can’t find my way up
outta trouble’s gutter.

Yeah, there’s a S.W.A.T. team of linguists
shoving submachine guns and assault rifles
in my face, threatening to blow me away
if I refuse to physically conjugate
the verb,

“rise.”

Still I can’t get my ass up
outta trouble’s gutter.

Down here in trouble’s gutter
I can’t even get a conversation, let alone an amen
from God. Not by prayer, divine intervention,
cell phone, or Internet.

And oh so slinky, double-jointed
and full-breasted infinity
where are you now, when I need you
the most?

You, the one
once so versed in practicing
mirror-worthy aphrodisiacrobatics
before my eyes.

All the times
I risked my life
to prove my love for you
by writing heartfelt haikus
on the heads of speeding bullets.

But with you gone now
every day is just one more day of missing you.
And that’s a gravity that weighs me down.
That’s a gravity
Newton never took into consideration
when talking about how all things eventually fall,
like I’m falling now.

Falling hard.
Right on down into trouble’s gutter.

There was once a day
when I escaped the shadow of the Damned,
the shadow of Zero.
I’ve even mowed Satan’s lawn
without breaking a sweat.

But right now
I can’t find my way
outta trouble’s gutter.

Yet one of these days I’ll rise,
move like the finest of drugs
through the veins of night.
Until then, I’m just lying here in this gutter,
staring up at that night sky,
and it’s looking down at me
like I’m some wounded animal by the side of the road,
believing it’s offering me relief
when it shows up with a gun.

And oh, Saint Elation
I remember those days
when you’d jackhammer my brain to dust
and my heart would still pump
a boogaloo beat for you.

Steal my eyes
and I’d still see you as my one and only.
Rip off my ears
and I’d still hear the music in your every step.
Cut off my arms
and I’d still hold you with all my attention.
If I had no mouth
I’d still speak your name
through telepathy, semaphore, or Scrabble pieces.
Cut off my legs and
I’d still make my way to you by train,
dumb waiter, or levitation.

Yeah, somewhere there’s a gravestone
with my name on it.
Somewhere there’s a cloud
with my face on it.

Somewhere in my gut
there’s this radio that won’t stop playing.

It keeps saying:

“What’re you waiting for?
Get your ass up outta the gutter.
Move through life. And when you do,
do more than just imagine the lives of others.
Breathe their breath, beat their hearts.
Wear their faces.
Let your words be theirs, and their words yours.
And when you speak, speak loud and clear.

And when you speak,
speak only of strength, promise, and love.”

TAGS: , , , , , ,

RICH FERGUSON has performed nationally, and has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka, T.C. Boyle, Jerry Stahl, Bob Holman, Loudon Wainwright, Ozomatli, and many other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed on The Tonight Show, at the Redcat Theater in Disney Hall, the New York City International Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, South by Southwest, the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus, and with UK-based poetry collective One Taste. He is also a featured performer in the film, What About Me? (the sequel to the double Grammy-nominated film 1 Giant Leap), featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, Krishna Das, and others. He has been published in the LA TIMES, Opium Magazine, has been widely anthologized, spotlighted on PBS (Egg: The Art Show), and was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His spoken word/music videos have been featured at poetry film festivals throughout the world. Ferguson is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony has been published by L.A.’s Punk Hostage Press.

69 responses to “Mowing Satan’s Lawn”

  1. TammyAllen says:

    I’m on a dangerous pendulum
    swinging between anger
    and grief.

    Your words hold a promise
    In the end.
    A promise I want to wipe off
    your face.

    I’m certainly in the gutter and
    looking up I see arrogance
    I feel no need to emulate anyone.
    all I really want is to crush them
    like ice for a bloody snow cone.

    Satan can mow his own damn lawn
    what’s the scythe for death?
    If not to match blades in battle.

    Do you really want burps of
    sunshine, hope and love.
    Disappointment is never yours
    if you expect nothing.

    I wish I could erase my wants
    my needs.

    Perhaps then freedom would enlighten me.
    until then
    Satan
    mow your own damn lawn
    and leave my gutter alone.

    Sorry, you alway inspire prose in me. I love, LOVE your work. I hope to meet you soon.
    Thank you for inviting me to read.
    blessing from a tortured soul fighting for absolution from my own ego.

    Tammy Allen

  2. Yvonne de la Vega says:

    “Yeah, there’s a S.W.A.T. team of linguists
    shoving submachine guns and assault rifles
    in my face, threatening to blow me away
    if I refuse to physically conjugate
    the verb,

    “rise.”

    Fergie –

    Ah! You are the ultimate fighter, the only assassin for the job.
    You strut through the realm of WORD like it’s a disco
    with your AR15 blazing verbage in a barrage of dead on center
    bull eye like the a rastafari to a spleef, like a texan to the beef,
    like corral to the reef and what’s this?

    Nothing less than you – “rising” to the call!
    and inspiring to say the least…

    Only Love,
    de la Vega

    • Wow, these words mean a lot me. Especially coming from you, Yvonne. Here’s to knocking on wood. Or whatever the hell we need to do to not anger the Gods of Poetry!

    • Erika Rae says:

      “You strut through the realm of WORD like it’s a disco
      with your AR15 blazing verbage in a barrage of dead on center…”

      Rich, this phrase by de la Vega will be your epitaph on that gravestone somewhere out there. But there’s a secret that we all know and maybe you do, too (and maybe you don’t), but that secret is this: you will never die.

  3. Zara Potts says:

    Rich, I can hear you recite this in my mind and it is so great. You are so great. Your poems are so great. You are a treasure.

  4. James D. Irwin says:

    I’m never really all that good with poetry— reading them or writing them.

    Most I don’t understand. A lot I don’t really like. However, every now and then there’s a poem that I just love.

    This is one of those.

    Amazing, man.

  5. I agree wholeheartedly with James – there’s not much I like, but this is one of them. The sound of it being read aloud really comes through. A very natural, fantastic beat.

    • Thanks for reading, David. And thanks for picking up on the rhythm of the piece as well. Yeah, from piece to piece, my ear and I definitely spend a lot of time working this one out. Peace.

  6. You never disappoint, Rich.

    “And oh, Saint Elation
    I remember those days
    when you’d jackhammer my brain to dust
    and my heart would still pump
    a boogaloo beat for you.”

    Pure poetry and emotion.

  7. Kimberly says:

    Yes! Yes! My God, Yes!

    (Rich, you rock it like no other.)

    Constant admiration.

  8. Dianne Klein says:

    Great stuff, Rich! Wish I could hear you recite it the way you do, dancin, jivin, giving it your soul.
    xo
    Dianne

  9. Joe Daly says:

    Well done, Rich. I echo the sentiments of Jeffrey and James, above. As someone who seems to struggle with poetry, your poem was exciting to me because I related to it almost immediately. You certainly deliver the goods with your vivid and one-of-a-kind imagery.

    >>and history with its terminal amnesia,<<

    One of the saddest, truest lines.

    Anyway, I just hope that when you finished mowing Satan’s lawn, he came out with a glass of lemonade for you. He can’t be all that bad, can he?

  10. JM Blaine says:

    the tits of infinity
    are swollen
    with milk
    from the llamas
    that graze near
    the river
    of life
    & the Reaper
    you seek
    sings the song
    you have
    longed
    for so long
    to hear

    Listen:

    Rich Ferguson
    lives
    & is now
    alive

    • Ah, Brother. Thanks so much for reading. Always such an honor. Hope you’re having a wonderful summer filled with soul preaching, singing, making music, and tickling the toes of the muses. Peace.

  11. Chris says:

    Rich, wow this one moves to the top. beauty

  12. Dana says:

    Rich,
    You always make me want to use words that normally don’t appear in my personal daily lexicon…
    like RIGHTEOUS. and DIG. Because you are, and I do.

    • Ah, Dana. You’re the best. I’m more than happy to share my lexicon with you if you share yours with me. You should send me a word of the day, and I promise to use it at least five times before the sun goes down. Cheers.

  13. dwoz says:

    SWAT teams of linguists and portmanteaus…a fine juxtapositraction.

  14. Matt says:

    Rich, this is fabulous. Love the rhythm, love imagery, love the way it flows like a river. And the wordplay! “Aphrosdiacarobatics” indeed.

    When so much of the poetry I come across seems to staid and cerebral, this is a quickening jolt of electricity. Thanks.

    • Matt:

      Always a pleasure to hear from you, my friend. Thanks so much for reading my work. Here’s to quickening jolts of electricity in everything we do! Peace and plenty o’ rhythm your way.

  15. dwoz says:

    IF you’ll suffer a ‘shop talk’ moment…

    I love how you start to declare a rhyme scheme, andstart to allow it to coalesce, and then let it hide back in the mist, peeking out once or twice. Just enough to let us know it’s there, if we need it.

  16. Lorna says:

    Ah, very nice. This is one of my favorite poems that I have read on TNB so far. Thanks for the words.

  17. Malorie says:

    In agreement with a few fella’s above, I usually don’t like much modern poetry.
    However, your’s have struck a chord in me. Good work man. Wish I had that kind of talent.

  18. I like your lament. I need to listen to it. Yeah. I need to print this one out and paste into my soul.

    • Brother Nick:

      Thanks so much for reading. Yeah, I’ve got tons of phrases pasted onto my soul as well. Some of them yours, in fact. Definitely takes a special kinda Crazy Glue to get the job done. Peace.

  19. Irene Zion says:

    I am
    chewing
    every stanza
    every word
    every letter
    then I swallow
    and continue to chew
    to taste your words
    smell the gutter
    see history so bloated
    that she can’t touch her toes.

    I am trying to physically conjugate
    the verb “to rise” as well.
    I am trying to read your haikus
    as they speed by my head.

    The weight is too dense.
    The texture too coarse.

    Sometimes relief comes
    in the form of a gun,
    but it is not salvation,
    it is just an end
    a coward’s end.

    I can see you on a rolling board
    on the subway
    legless armless toothless eyeless earless
    and yet
    the passengers are all
    putting coins in your cup
    and the cup runneth over
    with gratefulness
    for your song
    that you can sing
    without a mouth.

    We all have a gravestone ready
    but it is not your time
    wear my face
    breathe my breath
    and know
    only
    strength
    promise and
    love.

    • Ah, Irene. What lovely words. Thanks so much for reading. You’re the absolute best. Now I know where Lenore gets it from…though she may beg to differ. 🙂

  20. JB says:

    Strange thing happened as I read this: Your voice took over for me and I heard you reading this aloud in my head. Ain’t that something?

  21. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Rich, man, this is so good! Constantly surprising and layered and musical. A real ride and beautiful, too. Love this. Truly great.

    • Hi Lisa:

      Thanks so much for reading. And thanks so much for the kind words. They really mean a lot to me, especially coming from you. Hope you’re well, and your uncle also. He’s the best.

  22. Stefani Williams says:

    Really?!?! Is this the guy I work with? Thank the UNIVERSE! I just wish I could HEAR this on a daily basis! Your face and voice makes me smile each and every day, because I know it’s there, even though I may not “physically” hear it. LOVE IT, Rich!!! You know I do!

  23. Judy Prince says:

    ” . . . and history with its terminal amnesia”—-I echo Joe (you did it AGAIN, Joe!) about that line jumping out and grabbing me. I love the way this poem moves, Rich, and gets us through the mess you describe so vividly.

    This close is terrific: “And when you speak,
    speak only of strength, promise, and love.”

  24. Mende says:

    This poem was the perfect end to a perfect L.A day. These words turn on the charm of the next world with a photograph album-like tapping of feet, it feels like the teasing of wind in warm summer wind. These words make me wanna grow my hair… I guess this is just the upbeat downbeat tempo of greatness, it speaks easy, man. Can’t hardly wait to see what comes outta you next.

  25. Todd Zuniga says:

    I love this:

    Maybe it’s just me
    slowly dying of loneliness.

    And I love this, more: “Saint Elation”

  26. Greg Olear says:

    Pressed for time this morning, so forgive the short comment, but I really like this, Rich.

    • Hey Greg:

      Short comments, long comments, no comments, whatever. I just appreciate you reading, my friend. Also, I really dug those pictures of you, Lenore and the gang on your front porch. Take care!

  27. moonsneaky says:

    Hey Rich, I really felt your words when I was reading this… I especially like the metaphor of you being the drug in the night’s veins. Also, I had to comment because I love Rilke so much and you played with my favorite poem by him. You did it justice. More beautiful poems please.

  28. I love having read through the comments to see that so many people who (like me) aren’t really into poetry are your fans. I would even go so far as to say that for the most part I dread poetry – I run far far away from it, rolling my eyes all the way. I HATE it when someone at a party asks if they can “share” (accost me with?) their poetry. But when I get a heads up that Mr. Rich Ferguson has published something new I actually smile and can’t wait to go read it. And I am never disappointed. This like everything else is just genius. It isn’t just a poem, it’s a spot on description of an indescribable state of being. So spot on it makes you want to raise your lighter in the air while you’re reading it. Well done, sir.

    • Oh, Jovanka. Not only are you a master of words when it comes to your stand-up, and your writing in general, but you are so well-spoken when it comes to your comments as well. Wow. I’m so honored by everything you said. And I’m so honored that you took the time to read my piece. Even though we’re separated by many, many miles I’m feeling you in my heart right now, my dear. Thanks so much for everything. You’re the absolute best.

  29. Some really nice lines in there, Rich. I kept hearing Leonard Cohen’s voice and Adrian Belew’s frantic off-note guitar. Not to say the piece wasn’t entirely your own, just that askew associations hung off it like ornaments for me, a good thing, I think.

  30. Simon Smithson says:

    I don’t know whether to be more impressed by the form or the function, Rich.

    I never got into poetry so much before making it over to TNB. Now… now I’m getting hooked, and it’s all thanks to the guys and girls who write like you.

    • Hey Simon:

      Thanks so much for the kind words, and thanks so much for the kind words as well. I hope your travels proved safe, satisfying, and completely seductive. Peace.

  31. Kalani Music says:

    Nice Rich – When do we get to see the live reading?

  32. Rich- all these comments say it for me – i’m a proud brother standing just off shoulder as you’re showered with praise and admiration. You know how I feel about the way you put words together – we grew up together after all, you’ve known it all your life. but I could never say it like these folks do. i’m just going to stand here and bask in the light you shine on us all and nod with appreciation. that’s what proud brothers are good for.

    • Ah, Brother James:

      Thanks so much for the kind, wise words. And thanks so much for reading. Can’t wait till you start sharing your music with the world. You know I’m gonna be the first one in line to buy the CD, and to see you live. Big sky love…

  33. Jude says:

    “Steal my eyes
    and I’d still see you as my one and only.
    Rip off my ears
    and I’d still hear the music in your every step.
    Cut off my arms
    and I’d still hold you with all my attention.
    If I had no mouth
    I’d still speak your name
    through telepathy, semaphore, or Scrabble pieces.
    Cut off my legs and
    I’d still make my way to you by train,
    dumb waiter, or levitation.”

    Don’t we all secretly wish for a lover to speak those words. You Rich, are not only a lover of words but a lover of the world. This is great poetry.

  34. Gloria says:

    That’s the most beautiful Scrabble reference I’ve ever read. Thanks, Rich.

  35. I’ve read this 3-4 times today. I feel as though I just want to read this poem over and over again, aloud, to myself — to feel the rhythm of your words.

    I can’t quite find the words to express how much I dig this … but, the following is one of my favorite parts:

    “Still I can’t get my ass up
    outta trouble’s gutter.

    Down here in trouble’s gutter
    I can’t even get a conversation, let alone an amen
    from God. Not by prayer, divine intervention,
    cell phone, or Internet.”

    This poem speaks to me.

    • Hi Rachel:

      Wow, I’m honored that you not only read my poem once, but 3-4 times. Dang, I don’t think my mom’s ever read my work that much. Well, actually, come to think of it, I think she has.

      I’m also glad the poem speaks to you, and I’m glad you took the time to speak to me to let me know your thoughts. Peace.

  36. […] my dear friend, the poet Rich Ferguson, sent me a new piece of writing posted at his website, the Nervous Breakdown. With his permission, I’ll share a few lines of “Mowing Satan’s Lawn” with you […]

  37. Hi Rich,

    Finally was able to access this wonderful poem with its pacing, startling imagery, humor, and sincerity. Quite a bit to think about as the words keep their own rhythm and momentum. Thanks!

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