rich-ferguson-new-jersey-me

This week on the Otherppl with Brad Listi podcast, a conversation with TNB Poetry editor Rich Ferguson , whose debut novel, New Jersey Me, is available now from Rare Bird Books / A Barnacle Book. Big congrats to Rich! Go buy his book!

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One

By Rich Ferguson

Poem

Be one with the world. One with yourself. One with the tranquility gallery behind your eyes, its humble paintings of peace & prosperity. One with how that gallery is so often under reconstruction, deconstruction. One with how everything is so impermanent, so fleeting. How your every thought breeds Frankensteins & angels. Be one with all your Frankensteins & angels.

Photo by Andrei RozenFirst question, gotta ask: What’s up with the hat?

A lot of people ask me that question. And it’s a valid one, as I’m wearing it in most every photo. Though, there are certain spoken word videos where I don’t wear it, or a bandana: “All The Times” and “Human Condition” are two videos that come to mind. I also never wear it in the shower, to bed, or to work. Haven’t worn it to a funeral either. Or when getting a driver’s license photo.

When words meant to be spoken are bottled up for too long, those words stop showering and shaving. Crank speed metal at four a.m. Carve lines into your forehead with rusty knives. Illegally park in handicapped spaces, create fake ads on Craigslist. Those bottled-up words trade up for down, left for right, dropkick you into the shacklebone zone. They smile in public, beat you in private. Fill your mouth with rains and hurricanes, pee a circle around your soul and mark it for extinction.

Author’s Note: A musical track I created with L.A. musician Bo Blount is currently featured in the trailer for The Beautiful Anthology (BIG thanks to David Grossbach for putting it together). Below you’ll find the poem which inspired the piece. If you’d like to listen to the track, or download a free version of it, click on the SoundCloud link at the bottom of the page. Hope you enjoy…

 

Like a Russian mobster tattoo
This is you forever inked into my flesh
Telling the story of us

That story’s name: Butterfly, Moon, Bed

 

BP:  This interview is somewhat unique, since you’re not necessarily out promoting a book or another specific project. You’re not on a junket. You’re a student from Minnesota who is currently living in Norway (more on that later), and I decided to chat you up after I saw UMN’s English Department website bragging about you because you’re the reigning Best Individual Poet according to the 2011 national College Unions Poetry Slam.

For those of you who couldn’t make it out to last week’s TNB Literary Experience in Los Angeles, here’s a little taste of what you missed.

Behold this set from spoken word maestro Rich Ferguson, accompanied by B.O.S.S:

The lover that left too soon, the other that stayed too long;
the driver that cut you off in traffic;
the weatherperson that never gets the five-day forecast right;
the upper class, middle class & lower class;
the infirm & elderly;
Republicans & Democrats;
Hispanics, Blacks & Whites;
Israel & Palestine;
suburbanites & Skid Row denizens.

We all need to make an enemy outta someone.

Hitler, Mussolini, Milosevic, 
Pinochet, Pol Pot & Ratko Mladic.
They all needed to make an enemy outta someone—
practically everyone but themselves.

Slavery, segregation;
the Civil War & two World Wars;
Vietnam & 9/11;
the Trail of Tears & Mandela imprisoned;
Hiroshima, Nagasaki; 
the Oklahoma City Bombing;
Kent State & Tiananmen Square;
Columbine, the L.A. Riots & global genocides.

Everyone’s got a finger poised 
ready to hit the Doomsday button
like it’s some super-hot G-spot.

We all need to make an enemy outta someone.

The Lincoln assassination, 
JFK assassination,
John Lennon,
Malcolm X,
Medgar Evers, 
Harvey Milk,
Che Guevara,
Trotsky & Ghandi assassinations.

It’s insane,
the way we’ve let guns do the speaking 
instead of peace talks.

And somewhere in the midst of all this bloody history
Martin Luther King Jr. once called out: “I have a dream, I have a dream…”
But sometimes it’s hard to keep a dream alive,
especially when you’re caught in the devil’s crosshairs.

We all need to make an enemy outta someone.

Cover-ups, 
pay-offs & corruption;
secret torture sessions & death.
Invading Libya, Iraq & Afghanistan.
For all the lies our government has told 
its lips may as well be blue:

Truth asphyxiated.

This suicidal tendency,
a blemish of supremacy 
on the face of our nation.
We’re well on our way 
to making enemies out of everyone.
Pretty soon,
we won’t even be able to call 
our own shadow a friend.

We all need to make an enemy outta someone.

It’s a fatal attraction,
the way we make ourselves gasoline
when someone’s heart’s on fire.
We just wanna see all the love
go up in smoke.

And in the name of the Bothered, Stunned & Tortured Ghost,
let me say:
Instead of worshipping,
we’ve spent way too long
warshipping all our Gods & Goddesses 
with bombs instead of prayers.

That’s what happens when you spend too much time
in the zero church:
You never get your soul’s worth of healing.

And so we continue
to prey upon others 
with this religion of vengeance.

We all need to make an enemy outta someone.


Author’s Note: If you’d like to see a video of this piece, click here.

For a while, I’ve kept what I’m about to tell you to myself. Why I’m sharing it with you now, dear writers and readers, I’m not exactly sure. Maybe it’s because TNB is celebrating its fifth birthday, and being one of the site’s original writers I’ve always done my best to be as open and honest as possible in every piece I’ve posted.


Since performing at the NYC International Fringe Festival in 2007, LA poet/spoken word artist and TNB contributor Rich Ferguson has made it his mission to once again return to the city to perform.

This coming week (April 20th – 23rd) Ferguson will be back, performing three shows in NYC (one solo, and two others with musician, Bo Blount).


Things you’ve said under your breath.

Things people have said with their last dying breath.

Things that drive people to drink.

Things that made Jesus think, “Maybe I’m in the wrong line of business…”

Things you can only find in Detroit.

Things that make you jump for joy.

Things that make people jump from the Golden Gate Bridge.

Things that get stuck between your teeth.

Things you’ve stuck in your ear, up your nose, or up your butt.

Things that change from ugly to beautiful.

Things that frighten you.

Things that enliven you.

Things to help raise your credit score.

Things to help lower your cholesterol.

Things organisms have done to adapt & survive.

Things that make certain men become priests.

Things that make certain women wrestle alligators.

Things serial killers think about.

Things you find in a dead man’s pockets.

Things you find in your own pockets.

Things named after Greek Gods.

Things people have done in the name of God.

Things that cause acne.

Things that cause cancer.

Things to consider before having a baby.

Things to consider before joining the French Foreign Legion.

Things you’d do if you had wings.

Things you’d do if you had the Green Lantern’s power ring.

Things to help clear your aura.

Things you can clear out of your orifices.

Things you should always buy generic.

Things you’ve always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask.

Things associated with winter.

Things associated with summer.

Things you’d do if you only had a week left to live.

Things you’d do if you were President.

Things the atom bomb thinks before going boom.

Things the flower bud thinks before going bloom.

Things they put into processed meats.

Things you do during the five stages of grief.

Things you’ve learned from the Bible.

Things you’ve learned from the National Enquirer.

Things to say while sexting.

Things you should never say to someone who’s depressed.

Things you forget.

Things you desire.

Things you’ve done while under the influence of drugs.

Things you’ve done while under the influence of love.

Things that make you go “Hmmm…”

Things you see when staring up at clouds.

Things your pets do when you’re not around.

Things you can smoke.

Things you can recycle.

Things behind the sun.

Things to make your car run better.

Things you find alongside the road

Things you find washed up on the beach.

Things you build.

Things you compete for.

Things you do when you’re alone in your room.

Things Van Gogh thought just before cutting off his ear.

Things that go in one ear and out the other.

Things you can burn.

Things you can save.

Things to say to get a girl wet.

Things to say to get a guy hard.

Things to say to get kicked off jury duty.

Things you can carry.

Things you can hide.

Things that decay.

Things that rejuvenate.

Things made of plastic.

Things made of corn.

Things put into time capsules.

Things put into compost piles.

Things that live under your skin.

Things you find around Jim Morrison’s grave.

Things that remind you of Buddha.

Things that remind you of Judas.

Things your doctor won’t tell you.

Things your parents won’t tell you.

Things your lover won’t tell you.

Things your best friend won’t tell you.

Things the major corporations won’t tell you.

Things the government won’t tell you.

Will never tell you.


Click here to see the author recite this piece.

What I want: to crank creation’s contrast knob to fully illuminate what’s right about the world.

I wanna be Faith’s strung-out junkie. My dreaming veins singing a better tomorrow.

What I don’t want: to be dust, rust. Roadtripping with demons—Oblivion or bust.

Don’t wanna be that one suicide bullet locked and loaded in the chamber of grief’s gun. Don’t wanna be your blood-lusting grave, your ghost-moan grave, your any kinda grave.

What I want: to spend time in your joy’s city. I’ll sweep the streets, round up criminals, direct traffic—anything and everything to keep your bliss vibrant and alive.

I wanna radioactivate, self-immolate. Burn away all poverty, fear and sickness to fuel the fire of our well-being.

Don’t wanna be an inert gas in the Idiotic Table of Elements. Wanna be a full-on kick in the balls to ignorance.

Never wanna torture or kill any animals or insects in the making of these words, these beliefs, no matter how low I may get between thought, between breath, between life and death.

But if anything must die, let it be the ego. Let it go.

What I want: for you to write on my flesh everything you see and hear when you sleep. Wanna believe the pen outlasts the blade. Freedom outlasts the chains.

I wanna shred your self-doubt, refold it into a confident origami.

Wanna see you go out into the night, take a deep breath. Sip in stars, planets, moonbeams. Let me visit the solar system in your head. Let me be asteroid, nebula. Let us become the Universe of We.

Don’t wanna be old news, worn-out shoes, poorly played blues. Don’t wanna be a perpetual cruiser up and down the Boulevard of Bad Vibes.

I wanna shake our collective birthright of shame, blame. Want the veins in my hands to be Sanskrit letters spelling out the words: “I will hold you up when you’re down.”

I wanna believe that had we lived in the Warsaw Ghetto we would’ve been survivors. We would’ve been books for all to read in the secret libraries.

I want our hearts and minds to unite and revolutionize. Don’t want racism’s fist to be supersized.

And finally, I want every sacred word in every language—dead and alive—to be your first and last name. So whenever I call out to you it feels like I’m praying.


No Animals or Insects Were Tortured or Killed in the Making of This Poem

(Click on above link to watch a video of this piece)



My mother

was full moon,

my father—

lone wolf.


I was their child:

part howl,

part ghost-strung guitar.


I did not cry

when the witch doctor

smacked

the first pain of breath

into me.


Instead,

I sang a song of what was,

what would be,

what would never be.


My birth certificate

was written on a blank page

of starless night.


I was baptized

in a river of black crows.


My first three utterances:


“Holy”


and


“Hold me.”


To this day,

I still search for

meaning and completion

in those three words.



Author’s Note: Once you’ve read the piece, you’re more than welcome to listen to an audio recording of it as well. Just click here.


For those born with a radarless heart, destined to wander in worried circles while others walk a truer, straighter path, I wait for you. Guide you.

For those failing students of the streets, playing losing odds against the laws of gravity, I wait for you. Change the rules for you.

For those between thoughts, between breaths, between life and death, I wait for you. Fill the silences for you.

For those always ending up last in the soul’s inner-beauty pageant, I wait for you. Crown you.

For those who brave the sun, brave the deoxygenated black-hole dark to write epic poems in the vast spaces between glittering stars, I wait for you. Collaborate with you.

For those who speak from the heart, even when it is broken, knowing that cracked words are better than know words at all, I wait for you. Honor you.

For those gone so ghost that it makes invisibility seem visible, I wait for you. Long to see you.


Gather fractured raptures, make whole, make one. Gather fractured raptures, make whole, make one.


For those who’ve had all the wars of the world written into the lines around their eyes, I wait for you. Bear that history with you.

For those whose lives have been relegated to the B-side of that number one with a bullet hit called “My Gunned Down Life,” I wait for you. Write a better song for you.

For those who work the graveyard shift in the morgue of loneliness, I wait for you. Work side by side with you.

For those who go through life saying, “Here is a map of my spine available to all thrill-seekers—course this pained and treacherous terrain if you dare,” I wait for you. Walk that path with you.

For those who can barely speak or breathe for all the sadness crowding their lungs, I wait for you. Revive and alive you.

For those fatal optimists, hope flourishing but cyanide on standby, I wait for you. Offer taste of faith to you.

For those who consider their existences nothing more than mundane elevator Muzak in the soundtrack of life, I wait for you. Electrify and turn it up to 10 for you.


Gather fractured raptures, make whole, make one. Gather fractured raptures, make whole, make one.


For those whose love has been scattered from halo to horizon, I wait for you. Feel for you.

For those anchored by a failing conviction barely rooting them to earth, I wait for you. Hold on to you.

For those who’ve long since pulled the plug on their personal freak machines, I wait for you. Funky chicken, krump and downrock with you.

For those educated at the finishing school for choked tubas, I wait for you. Sing loud and clear for you.

For those with atom bombs and ghost towns encoded into their DNA so that everywhere they go shit just keeps blowing up and no one ever stays around for very long, I wait for you. Rebuild for you.

For those who’ve shipped their lives off to fictitious addresses hoping to elude reality once and for all, I wait for you. Pick up that mail for you.

For those who voted Nihilistic and got their President of Nothingness, I wait for you. Dream a better world for you.


Gather fractured raptures, make whole, make one. Gather fractured raptures, make whole, make one. Gather fractured raptures, make whole, make one. Make one.



Author’s Note: Once you’ve read the following piece, please feel free to watch the video of it as well. You can see it right here on TNB-TV.


To The Judgmental, Rushing-to-Conclusions Cashier at My Local Supermarket:


Just because I came in at 2 a.m. last night to purchase almond milk, Astroglide and graham crackers doesn’t mean I’m some lactose-intolerant, sport-fucking insomniac with a sweet tooth. It just means that for a change I’m in love. Real love. Capital L. Capital O. Capital V. Capital E: LOVE. All in bright, blinking lights and spread across the evening sky.

So please, judgmental, rushing-to-conclusions cashier at my local supermarket, the next time you see me, stop rolling your eyes and shaking your head. Just take my money, gimme my goods and change and I’ll be on my way. Cause waiting for me at home is love. Real love. All that capital letter, bright blinking light love. My love, she’s the one whose steady breath is a calendar marking my days. She’s nothing like those cheap Merlot girls I’ve known before; the ones lacking body, heavy with acidic wit and leaving me feeling like shit the next day.

So please, judgmental, rushing-to-conclusions cashier at my local supermarket, even though you may think I’m some babbling Hollywood street freak shaman of oddities, understand that you and me, we’re not so different. You, you’re constantly being pummeled by Muzak, rude customers and fluorescent lights. And me, I’ve also had my share of crushingly catatonic days; feeling way beyond torn, loco as Dahmer, no longer on speaking terms with my soul’s personal embalmer. Instead of a happy man floating on air I was a dead man walking.

So please, judgmental, rushing-to-conclusions cashier at my local supermarket, don’t think I’m some 21st Century twist on Jack the Ripper should I come in late one night buying kitchen gloves, razor blades and heavy-duty dental floss. Really, I’m harmless. All I’m trying to do is make sense of love. Capital L. Capital O. Capital V. Capital E: LOVE. Yeah, with my love I’ve learned that muscle memory is far trustworthier than prayer. So I just keep on swinging from the trapeze of her irresistibility, knowing that should I let go she’ll be there with absolute grace, pulling me into her embrace. And the way we move—flesh against flesh, confession against confleshion—it’s like lullabies and locomotives are stitched into our skin.

So please, judgmental, rushing-to-conclusions cashier at my local supermarket, stop looking at me like you’re writing me hate mail on the backs of your eyeballs. I’m just trying to make a point here. Just baring my soul, trying to make sense of love. Real love. All that capital letter, bright blinking light love. With my love, I’d gladly bury myself alive deep within the pleasure tomb of her wanting. It don’t scare me that there are no visible exit signs written into her blood, cause there’s nowhere else I’d rather be but love. Real love. Capital L. Capital O. Capital V. Capital E: LOVE. Yeah, my love, she’s the 13th apostle in Faith’s good-luck gospel. Knows her semiotics and semi-automatics. She’s locked and loaded at the 11th hour. Wielding her salvation gun, she’s ready to shoot me not down, but up. Oh, astronomy, Deuteronomy, Nostradamus, Monopoly. While it all might sound like a game here, I’m not kidding.

So please, judgmental, rushing-to-conclusions cashier at my local supermarket, stop looking at me like you’re S.W.A.T., just biding your time, waiting for a clear shot. Hear me out when I say that love, real love, my love, all that capital letter, bright blinking light love, she’s my Hope Diamond treasure. My telepathic push-me, pull-you of pleasure. Her lips are assassins doling out bullets of uncomplicated bliss. And when we kiss: Present, past & future, I never know what tense I exist in with her anymore. Cause it all feels like Now.

So please, judgmental, rushing-to-conclusions cashier at my local supermarket, know that love, real love, my love, she’s all hips and hydrogen bomb. Blows me away every time I see her walking down the street. She’s my lowdown, sweet and dirty mystic angel, swirling Jersey pirate radio. And oh how I play that station all night long. No more sorrow songs. Those were ten moons and an ocean ago. Back when I had the words early grave tattooed on my psyche. Back when misery blew me away so badly they needed a dustpan and broom to clean me off the walls of Kingdom Come.

So please, judgmental, rushing-to-conclusions cashier at my local supermarket, stop giving me those dirty looks the next time I come in to shop. Especially if I’m buying more almond milk, Astroglide and graham crackers. Believe me, it’s all for a good cause. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you here. I’m just trying to make sense of Capital L, Capital O, Capital V, Capital E: LOVE.