The Tower Journal

Craig Kurtz

To Whom It May Concern:

Reciprocal torture
is what Proust called romance.
It’s a regular drunken airport
of illegible signals & dissembling
errands. What we have here
is nothing less than untenable,
my dear.

Consanguineous upheaval
is what this author avows loving.
It’s an insurrectionary checkmate
of desiderations & betrayals litigated
with reproaches. Thinking doesn’t flatter us:
we court serialization & settle
next of kin.

Déjà raconté is what Freudians
call emotional perjury. Injudicious
liaisons allege bilateral liabilities
but infelicities of indebtedness scar hearts
the most. Possibilities at odds, arbitrations
come to terms for both pickpockets &

Bourgeois decay
is our unsurmountable dowry
as hindsight would have it
on the dotted line. It’s a customary
malfunction of humanity suggesting
wives receive pastors & husbands
deserve ulcers.

Miss Daisy Hayek

A middle-aged man with an hour to while,
in his hometown of two decades ago,
sat at a table on the boulevard,
a coffee nearby, and a local newspaper.
A small college town with a long pedigree,
refinèd and chic; artistic and versed.
Boutiques lined the street, all tastefully quaint
with murmuring mirth and elegant airs.
The great university, set on a hill,
overlooked the scene with a summer’s repose:
A midafternoon bedizened with green
and hot air balloons decorating the sky.
Motorcars were still, foot traffic was slight,
a Sunday’s abeyance of commercial discourse.
The man lit a smoke and surveyed the vista
mainly in memory, abundantly pleasant.

Taking a stroll, to revisit old haunts,
he spied on a corner an old woman beggar
camped out on the sidewalk, a tin cup beside her
holding a placard beseeching spare change.
Her attire was sallow, her hair iron grey,
her face — could it be? He thought it was she:
Miss Daisy Hayek, the recognition distorted
but, with his pulse sprinting, he confirmed it was true.
There she was bloated, weathered and wrinkled,
reduced to panhandling — his quondam sweetheart
from the grand old mad days of poetic guitars
and libertine fancies, such insouciant youth.
He was naïf then, hardly adult,
and she was his temptress, a free-thinking gypsy.
Her mother had suffered psychiatric distempers
and evident it now was, so, too, did Miss Hayek.

So long ago! She was beauty, at once coy and pert,
with ribbons and flounces, majestic caprices,
free as a zephyr, confoundingly cute, the mademoiselle
was a recondite valentine of inimitable zeal.
As if from a dream! The rustic picnics in sun-mellowed
bowers, and swimming in ponds ensconced by the gardens
abutting the college they trespassed with glee,
finding new places for assignations of whimsy.
And could she spend money! He joshed she was born
with a menu in hand, tossing her head with rich
promptitude at her pleasure’s behest, never failing
to find the most expensive item to expire malaise.
A lifetime ago! When love was an art, romance was a craft,
and flirting and sporting took steps like a dance.
Miss Daisy Hayek, bangled and plumed, invented
a court of adoration wherever she went.

And now there she is, crumpled and blowzy,
missing front teeth, alone on the pavement
shaking a cup instead of a tambour,
entreating stray alms instead of rare mischief.
The middle-aged man was given an instant
to make his decision — to greet or retreat,
and mulling it over, considered the scruple:
acknowledging her, or would that be painful?
Impossible it was for him to imagine such ruin,
he had grown up and succeeded in business
as was taken for granted even when he was bawdy
in an epoch where peccadilloes were proper.
But, what of Miss Hayek, abandoned and squandered,
unable to find a tycoon to support her
in her waning phase, a debauchee’s fey attrition,
and could she endure the embarrassing concursion?

But now it’s too late, he thinks he’s been spotted
and wouldn’t he be a brute to simply ignore her?
Besides! Anyhow, he has his appointment
and doesn’t it signify that she’d play a part?
For in thirty minutes, he’s scheduled to embark
on a lark of a flight in a hot air balloon,
the single indulgence from those errant years
he desiderated, but never could afford to enjoy.
Who better to accompany him on this twee vagary
than his comrade in capers from days bonhomie?
So he spoke to her as if he expected her there,
as if not a minute elapsed since they met.
And Miss Daisy Hayek stood up casually,
extended her hand and accepted at once.
Susceptible she was to chimerical coups,
musing it queer she hadn’t done such before.

Such a nonchalant tone, what a display of aplomb!
So — under the grime, the set-backs and the blight
the lady could summon the lady as if all it took
was an atomized squeeze of quiescent perfume.
Voilà! Aloft o’er the clouds, champagne flutes in hand
suspended in air, in reverie, in time,
a gentleman and a tatterdemalion,
as if nothing perverse was transpiring thus.
Few words exchanged, an unsessile encounter,
a fragile equanimity, an assuaged masquerade,
this was a homage, a thespian’s veneration
of seasons still flourishing in anamnestic theaters.
He still saw the face that he once kissed so often
and she, he could tell, remembered all that as well
but soon enough, it wouldn’t do to delay, the ride
had concluded; then, with a polite nod, he went on his way.


In these forlorn corners
where even mold spores
languish with tuberculosis
you will find the sentinels.
Motionless malformities,
they are absorbed into lethe
where birth traverses backwards
into a nexus of unknowing.

In these forsaken quarters
where even spiders disdain
themselves, relinquishing life,
you will find the gargoyles.
Tenebrous insensate entities,
they are unburied cadavers
sprouting prehensile nerve endings,
thirsting for opium’s remorse.

In these dilapidated accommodations
where even sepulchral echoes
abdicate their torpid origins,
you will find the unredeemed ones.
Ossified and frozen,
depleting orphaned organs,
they sputter through the mornings
to await nocturnal moorings.

Bohemians (A Song)

“If we offend, it is with our good will.”
— SHAKESPEARE: Quince as Prologue, A Midsummer Night's Dream, 5:1.

The faucet drips, the ceiling leaks,
The heat’s been off a full two weeks;
The neighbors curse, the doorman stares,
But inspiration dost efface base cares.
The floorboards creak, the rats gnaw through the night;
The carpets are thin, insulation is slight;
The landlord is downstairs, the rent is past due;
But this is the life, lads, we’re all betrothed to.

Bohemians we are, for aye and forsooth;
At this bottle’s bottom, we’ll get to the truth
Of life, fame & fortune — add folly for spice;
We live by the snuff-box, we die by the dice.

Our families weep, the clergyman sneers,
Agast at our debts, such excess of arrears;
The pundits will scoff and our girlfriends do chide:
They cannot see history on our side.
The townsmen all laugh, gainsay our prospects,
Dyspeptic critics with less prowess for sex;
Beware common sense else we’re caught in its hulls:
Dullards and dunces eviscerate skulls.

Bohemians we are, champions of the aesthetic;
Our wallets are craven, our couplets heroic.
Bankers and clerks, certes, have longer lives
But we’ll have more fun, and with their own wives.

Wittols may cry while we sharpen our wits
Upon the rough stone of a land full of maumets;
Pedants wag fingers, we’ll fill them with splinters
From our fervid pencils, paintbrushes and sculptures.
King-makers make tragedy, merry-makers satire,
We’ll melt frozen prose with our verses of fire;
Better men will create, lesser men only edit
And some think they rule the world inside a strait-jacket.

Bohemians we are, visionaries and artists,
To acknowledge our talent is why the middle-class exists;
Animadvert however much the life we have led,
You saints don’t start yours until the day you are dead.

The pantry is barren, the ice-box is vacant,
The phone has gone dead, our bank statements are lint;
Employment is measly, creditors never cease
To deprive the whole world some great masterpiece.
The powder-room reeks, the toilet paper is gone,
We drank the antiques, no heirloom left we can pawn;
Fair and square we drew straws, now it’s up to you, feller,
To debase yourself and write that mighty best-seller.

Bohemians we are, for aye and forsooth;
At this bottle’s bottom, we’ll get to the truth;
And sober we see the truth and it dost unnerve:
Dilettantes and poseurs get the fate they deserve.

He’s Getting Married

For Diane.

It wasn’t exigibly the envelope
arriving with the local newsprint;
It all transpired prior in the atoms
of her heart: he’s getting married.

How anticlimatic, this particular apocalypse;
how mundane the sufferings of the forgotten.
One may suppose when one hope dies then
another may arise: she’s wishing it be nigh.

It wasn’t inexorably she desired to be remembered,
all but certain he’d consider her considering this;
She would no less wonder if those letters
would be saved, nestings for the mice — or rather ashes.

Maybe someone’s sorry the photograph was lost.

How does it come to pass, measuring the anniversary
of an injury; obliteration’s offered up with a ribbon.
What gift does a woman give a man who has had her
heart and decided on a better: who reads the news in reverse?

It wasn’t expressly a relapse, this finality of
collapse sessile to the projected present tense;
She certainly would deduce passive triumphs prove
more newsworthy than the best of endeavored failures.

So, with time in bundles, tied like cubes of news
set on curbs — recycled, nonchalant, disused —
waves to and fro on calendars pass unnoticed,
then rest on a crest: he’s divorced again.

Copyright © 2014 Craig Kurtz

Craig KurtzCraig Kurtz lives at Twin Oaks Intentional Community where he writes poetry while simultaneously handcrafting hammocks. Recent work has appeared in Outburst, Regime, Indigo Rising, Harlequin Creature, Otoliths, Randomly Accessed Poetics and Reckless Writing. Music work featured at FishFood & LavaJuice.

The Tower Journal
Spring/Summer 2014