for Kathy Acker

Off highway one, just north of Esalen,

I wait as you unwrap the last of the bandages.

Somehow, wordlessly, I trust that

somehow we’re here because trust is

Coz you stopped at the crossroads for me.

Coz if you hadn’t, we wouldn’t be about to do this

And trust wouldn’t trust us, coz you wouldn’t

have let me love you completely, which isn’t

what love is

Wordlessly you place my hands on the scars

where they took your breasts.

Your still-radiant ink glowing like the mercury

in those thermometer things they use in burn wards

to find out whatever they want to

So they can verify what they already knew.

Like the invisible lights that kills,

and the pills that cooked your hair

And all the other stuff they did to you.

We’re flirting shamelessly (coz shame negates flirtation)

as my blue and useless ankles dangle over the ocean

“’Member this?”

You smile, legs wide, with that devious smirk

you level like virulent slit perfume.

“Yeah.                                          “I do.”

I’m done for

Coz avoiding contact, in or out of quarantine

with you’s like smothering a orgy with fuck cartoons.

“My resurrection’s one big fat open wound right now

“Wanna rip out my stitches?”

“Sure. Wanna hack off my cast?”

You’re nibbling my fractures

Gently at first, then less so, then quite a bit less so!

Skin breaks.

In this tree house, missing limbs like two hatchets

without a grip, we are as amazing as the guillotine.

You:               playing Joan of Arc in that scene where

she flips tricks in order to get published

so she can buy gifts for her soldiers

Me:                 in the role of Judas

selling out to the Pharmacies

And who better to pacify flailing souls

than brute angels with catheter halos?

And so our instincts stoop to mutilation.

And we flay the living shit out of tumors where,

yes, again, love wreaks its preemptive surgeries

until, somehow, wordlessly, trust is

Coz you stopped at the crossroads for me

Yeah. And martyrs on high holy days will

trash the mangers.

We go at each other like impious strangers

And our cylinders gush like slaughterhouse lambs

and our hearts breathe                            “Mercy”

and we whisper                             Mercy

And the wind cries

Bend It Like Gandhi

Jerome Dunn interviews Jerry the Priest

What accounts for the outsider/alienated voice in much of your work?

Well, I’m from the suburbs, which is what most of Urban America is, and it’s just No Place. At All. And Southern Cal is just highways linking serial retail outlets, where you drive for 4 hours only to emerge into the same noplace you just fled. And if you come from a Christian family, like I did, who work jobs, and, like, vote, are terrified of their genitals and essentially champion the whole WASP situation, the alienation’s pretty much built-in.

Are you a WASP?

And your religious upbringing contributed to your spiritual voice?

I’ve been interested in World Spirituality since forever. I’ve lived in Katmandu, and Istanbul, and spent time in Banaras and Jerusalem. I even matriculated at a Tibetan Buddhist university, where I became convinced that 3-D image compositions based on Modern Dance and Fluxus paradigms could communicate more absolutely than free verse. Thank God I’m over that.

What about this Jerry the Priest thing?

That started in the early ’80s, during the height of first-wave Punk. Everybody had a Punk name, and I was brand new on the scene. And I remember walkin’ into some garage where the kids all hung out doing drugs all day, and my family calls me Jerry, and I go, “I’m Jerry,” and they go, “Jerry the Priest?” and that was it.

But you’re not using JTP any more?

Jerry the Priest was this flash drag queen, primarily just to piss off every demographic possible. And I haven’t done drag for most of a decade, and… I have my moments, but I’m really not very angry any more, I’ve got nothing to prove. I think the work, whatever work I’m presenting, speaks for itself.

And I’m really focused, to the best of my ability, on being a mellow guy who cares about his friends and works to sustain healthy relationships with others. And be available for service to others. And loves God and wants to be as human as possible.

And your writing has continued evolving…

I hope so! What’s awesome now is the poems are flying through me almost faster than I can write them down. They’re coming through largely intact, direct from the Creator. I’m just the vessel for these, like, sutras! And they’re super optimistic and passionate and this is who I’m focused on being, now. And that’s what I wanna share.

What are you working on, now?

I’m combing through everything I ever wrote to put out a “new” collection, entitled Diet For A Small Meltdown.  I’m also working on a concert video, of this show I put on, shit, 11 years ago, now… What the hell happened? With a six-piece band and, like 8 dancers and 12 singers. It’s called Poems of Homicide and Ecstasy. That should be out in 2011, but there’ll be clips up online within the next few months.  And I’m starting a blog with Jeni Driver, this amazing photographer in Boulder, of inspirational Poetry and Art, and, I hope Music. The idea is to post a collaboration of text, image and sound, and then people can post responses to it. And it’s gonna be in multiple languages so the whole planet can participate. And raise money for suicide prevention. I think.

And what about those who might question the authenticity of your outsider stance, now that you’ve gone positive?

Those people can suck my dick! They can all go sleep on train tracks and get thrown out of soup kitchens like I did, and they can go glorify that, as I did. But you have to come inside at some point. Look what happened to Neal Cassady, or come on, name someone! That lifestyle takes no prisoners and eats ya to death! So, no.  I don’t need to identify with that anymore. And let’s not forget, I still am and always have been a thief, and where does it say the thief has to live in a constant state of dread and bedsores? Um, that would be no place: The thief who sleeps on newspapers is a suck-ass parasite. I happen to be a world-class parasite, on par with Gandhi

…you knew that Gandhi would stage hunger strikes to force his Industry patrons’ employees to plead and grovel and starve and die for pennies a day?


Oh, please. Gandhi was bought. Why do you think they offed his ass?

Allrighty, then, Jerome! …or is this Jerry now?

Total fucking hypocrite!!

Yes, I see. …So, if you could summarize your work in one word, what would it be?

YIKES!! Hahahaha! No, no. The word is REDEMPTION, people, that and that only. Shalom.

Most Cherished TNB Readers, From the Farthest Reaches of Outer Mongolia to Some Starbucks Wi-Fi Setup in Downtown Peoria:


I’d like to take this opportunity to whole-heartedly welcome you to the finely tuned, hopped-up, fuel-injected, engine humming, all pistons popping Poetry section of The Nervous Breakdown, in glorious 3.0.

My relationship with TNB started back in the original 1.0 days. When Brad Listi first asked me to write for the site, I wasn’t quite sure how to begin. Around that time, however, a dear friend passed away. So I decided to honor his passing by taking a stroll from Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, down to the ocean. Armed with only my camera, a notebook, and my dear friend’s favorite food—a corndog—in tow, I marked his passing in photos and various remembrances. That became my very first posting.

Since then, I’ve seen the site go through various incarnations. I’ve seen my own life go through various changes, as well. I’ve become a better writer, a better person; a lot of that having to do with all the wonderful folks I’ve met through TNB. As you’ll witness in either the Poetry section, Fiction section, Arts & Culture, or wherever the site takes you, we have a lot of heart, humor, and intellect to offer.

And we the forever faithful and fearless Poetry team; Associate Editors Uche Ogbuji, Jennifer Duffield White, and Milo Martin and I, as Editors, will do our best to hold the Poetry section to those high standards of quality. Each week, we’ll bring you the most thought-provoking, soul touching, mind melting poetry we can find from those farthest reaches of Outer Mongolia to that Starbucks wi-fi setup in downtown Peoria.

This week we offer you poetry from such varied talents as Iris Berry, Jackie Sheeler, Lisa Johns, Kenneth Shiffrin, Jerome Dunn, Doug Knott, and this week’s Featured Poet, Michael O’Keefe.

So wherever you are in this big old world of ours, most cherished TNB readers, strap on your seatbelts, rev your engines, shift into overdrive, and get ready to take a ride on the TNB Poetry section in grand and glorious 3.0.


Onward and upward,

Rich Ferguson

And didn’t I see you, child-daughter of tyranny,
caught with your pants down in the streets of
abandoned luck tonight?

And didn’t I see you in the Garden of Heaven
where the preachers warble as if impaled
by their very belief?

And was that not you on the promenade,
Guitar case open and empty of coins,
wailing The Wind Cries Mercy
into the market stalls?

Was that you I saw?

Or just my own horrid feedback in the
structureless wasteland of
Too Far From God

“Once you find your own way you can
really leave home…”

Was I deluded to have believed that?

In this, of all impossibly foreign cities, I think
of you often, and feel your questioning,
your frustration.

I am moved by the genius of your simplicity,
just as you are wrapped to me like a favorite
and flattering gown.

Can you touch me one more time? Will we ever kiss,
like old burglars, the shackles of our own freedom?

Will we, will you, will I accept, accept the accepted
conditions of life do you think anything besides the
gaps in your own attention span will deliver you?

Where were you the first time you heard this song?

Losing your virginity in the upper berth of
a sleeper traversing Poland?

Had you known your flashpoint would you still have
combusted, still have thrown yourself headlong into
that frying pan? Regardless,

Do you feel like I’m wasting your time yet?

Waiting for sunset in some sleepy little dive
on the shores of antiquity,

refusing the comfort of family and friends
in favor of naked revelations as to the
depths of your self-loathing?

There’s a wind.
There’s a friction in the Garden Of Heaven
where I’m hunched in my familiar posture.

Were it not for my beloved afflictions I would seriously
hitch a yacht and blow this graveyard.

A street peddler trundles his cart through the flower
beds. The excited cries of shine boys obsessed
with curbside one-up-manship.

A wind. A light rain in this downtown, like
miniature golf park.

I wish it could have been more.

A soccer ball winged within inches of this woman’s
veil. The loveless cackles of the homeless warping
into Bronchitis.

Children wrestling in the fresh, green grass of their
Golden Years is all I have to give you.

It’s all I have.