Excerpt for Restless Vanishings by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Restless Vanishings


John Michael Flynn

Copyright 2015-2017 by John Michael Flynn. All rights reserved.

Published by

Leaf Garden Press


Smashwords Edition

In loving memory of James L’Ecuyer, Phyllis Hammer

and Katarina Skole Flynn

With gratitude to Robert McRoberts, Harris Gardner,
Glo Mindock and Carle Johnson

For Angelica, always

“It takes a long time to become young.”

Pablo Picasso



Three Portraits From The Elevator At The Getty Museum

The Tragic Tale Of The Los Feliz Comet

Chasing A River’s Shadow Play

A Dozen Lemons In Autotropolis

I Was Thirteen

Tonka Truck

Big Light On Double Bed

North Of Santa Ray Ban

Over Thirty On Melrose And You’re Over The Hill


Re-Tooled Nights And Ambiguous Yarns

After A One-Nighter

Palisades Cell-Phone Sonnet

In Motion Sound Is Seen

Hand Mirror Monolith

Quite Off His Noggin It’s Lovely

Reading Cid Corman In A Nuthouse

Splinter, Rail, Couch

A Daughter’s Safety, A Father’s Patience


Four Ways To Convince An Agent A Glib Galoot Like Yourself Is The Next Big Bang

Last Will And Testament

Once Said Is Enough

Electro Theatre

Cross-Dresser In The Out Of The Closet Thrift Shop On Vine

Cold Storage

Thaw At Lake Quinsigamond

We Listened To The Baghdad Five-Day

Stylishly Exacting Executions Done Of Olden Times In Collaboration With Ye Of Faith

Of Grouse And Crow And Wild Turkey

Rattling Into Compromise

Emerald Moves Along The Blackstone

What I Knows Best Is The Kenmore Dinah At 3:30 A.M.

Dink Pascuali In The Boulevard Diner Answers All Concerns Regarding The Rat Race Question

In Praise Of Boston Aunts

Rumors Of Blues

Average Leo, The River, And A Doughnut

Sea Dog On A Backyard Bender

Race Point

Among Branches

Color, Dolor, Urbane


Mulcahey’s Pub Under The Merit Sign

Wave And Metronome

In The Small Of Her Back Another Illusion Sets Sail

Monterey Dissolve

Sunshine Dried Fuzzy Navels

The Mishe Mokwa Trail

Wheels And Blades

Automat, Peep-O-Ram, A Token

Gathering Contradictions In A Cheap Room

Three Intangible Initiations

Our Eyes Roamed Over Hills

Fractal Caddy

Chums At The Grange

Flames Wiped Out Third Base Last Stop Before Home

Pow Wow At Greenbriar

Neo Malibu Barbie Shares Face Time With Sergeant Rock The Third At La Tazza

Lady Terrorist Slays Lady Soldier And Herself


Shadows Lie

Wormtown Butch Out Of Jail

Constellations Advance

On A T-Ride Home From Boston

Locals Label Him Disengaged And Malevolent

Beehive Bill

Mister Westall’s Good Knife


Big Red Sideburns

Freon Bender

Roberto’s Barbershop And Overnight Trains To Palooka Ville

Dirty Just Got Off The Bus

Color Spectrum Thoughts On Racism At A Traffic Light

Passion Tension Mansion Pension

Of Flivver Kings And Mesmerists

Tejon Pass



Sequoia Girl


Washoe Club


Tractor Hat

Wagon Wheel Bed

Westbound Freight

Terra Bella



Vox Poetica “Thaw At Lake Quinsigamond”

Rive Gauche “We Listened To The Baghdad Five-Day”

Sahara “Stylishly Exacting Executions Done Of Olden Times In Collaboration With Ye Of Faith”, “Color, Dolor, Urbane”, “Among Branches”, and “Emerald Moves Along The Blackstone”, “Mister Westall’s Good Knife”, “Beehive Bill”

Mothwing Arts “Of Grouse And Crow And Wild Turkey”

Interpoezia “Authentic”

Rockhurst Review “Rattling Into Compromise”

Street Sighns: An Anthology “Mulcahey’s Pub Under The Merit Sigh”, and “What I Knows Best Is The Kenmore Dinah At 3:30 A.M.”

I-70 Review “Sea Dog On A Backyard Bender”

PoetsUSA “Average Leo, The River, And A Doughnut”

Providence Journal “Rumors Of Blues”

The Issue “Dink Pascuali Answers All Concerns Regarding The Rat Race Question”

Ibbetson Street Press “Automat, Peep-O-Ram, A Token”, “In Praise Of Boston Aunts”

Against Agamemnon; An Anthology “Lady Terrorist Slays Lady Soldier And Herself”

Somerville News “Gathering Contradictions In A Cheap Room”

Crash “Our Eyes Roamed Over Hills”, and “Roberto’s Barbershop And Overnight Trains To Palooka Ville”

Spillway “Monterey Dissolve”, “Passion Tension Mansion Pension”

Naugatuck River Review, and MO: Writings From The River “Big Red Sideburns”

Boiling River “Color Spectrum Thoughts On Racism At A Traffic Light”, and “In The Small Of Her Back Another Illusion Sets Sail”

Hot Metal Bridge “Dirty Just Got Off The Bus”

Stone’s Throw Magazine “On A T-Ride Home From Boston”

Pudding International “Flames Wiped Out Third Base Last Stop Before Home”, “Chums At The Grange”

Journal Of Modern Literature “Of Flivver Kings And Mesmerists”

Larcom Review “Wormtown Butch Out Of Jail”, and “Constellations Advance”

Red River Review “Sunshine Dried Fuzzy Navels”

Worcester Review, and The Book Of Irish American Poetry From 18th Century To The Present “Pow Wow At Greenbriar”

Kaleidoscope “The Mishe Mokwa Trail”, “Wheels And Blades”

Serving House Journal “Arboreal”, “Neo Malibu Barbie Shares Face Time With Sergeant Rock The Third At La Tazza”

DuPage Review “Locals Label Him Disengaged And Malevolent”

Brevities #33 “Olive”

Muddy River Review “Eclipses”, “Once Said Is Enough”, “Last Will And Testament”

Clackamas Literary Review “I Was Thirteen”

Red Wolf Journal “Chasing A River’s Shadowplay”

Stone Path Review “Tonka Truck”

Dewpoint “Constancy”

Beetroot “Re-Tooled Nights And Ambiguous Yarns”

Modern Poetry Quarterly Review “Splinter, Rail, Couch”, “A Daughter’s Safety, A Father’s Patience”

Nailed “Big Light On Double Bed”


In donning the DataSuit, the individual slips into information; his body is suddenly endowed with a second skin, with a muscle and nerve interface that fits over his own cutaneous layer. For him, for both of them, information becomes the sole relief of corporeal reality, its unique volume.

Paul Virilio

Something hoots

insistent and derisive

and I wake in a strange land.

George Garrett

Fear Of Clowns

His resume and 8 by 10 in hand

willing to accept and be accepted

an aspiring actor moves from Dallas to LA

wanting agents, premieres, the Doo-Dah parade

gay pride and whimsical sex under the jacarandas.

Altered his name legally upon arrival,

found something pressurized and desolate in the LA chai.

Call it a menacing stasis, unrelenting glare of the horizon

chalky pastel stucco hues, an elusive center of gravity.

O the palm trees so many and so alone like the wannabe actors

each of them commas across the papyrus blanch of candied Southland sky.

At his worst, he wept and wept. Nothing would ever change

this was madness, this place, madness, why oh why did he ever come?

Then one motionless noon after a bagel and lox at Cantor’s Deli

driving up Fairfax through arid moraines

he felt an epiphany like a dizzying excess of rum in the heat.

He would not be for rent or sale, he would just be –

cautiously, earnestly giving away his heart.

Tell me

who among us hasn’t followed the sun west without apology

into various fables of enlightened disillusionment?

I am and you are.

One. Both. Indivisible.

Ready to name something love.

Three Portraits From The Elevator At The Getty Museum


properly reserved


his disdain for the rich

brooks no commiseration

catty and lean

in blue blazer

silk maize ascot

and wintry grin

he’s only available

when it rains


Meet my first agent, a global village masterpiece

who remarked at our first meeting

“Don’t even call me unless it’s the next Armageddon.

She’s an installation, of sorts

performance art Getty would have never paid for

in red leather pants that match

her malachite lips and earrings

a bracelet of skulls tattooed around her wrist.

She’ll keep her sunglasses on indoors, thank you.


Art makes people sad

he doesn’t like that

so in cargo pants

tie-dyed shirt and Vans on big feet

he’ll skateboard through shining concerns

a billion movies brewing inside

none of them as dumb as art.

The Tragic Tale Of The Los Feliz Comet

Kay Linda was a Marin County dazzler

Jose Cuervo, Seconal and Darvon

slowing her ascent

toward A-list cheerleader status.

Today she’s playing a Jon’s

supermarket ozone layer

wretched polyethylene

like a boa around her shorts

as she updates the smog report

with her Medusa assemblage

of radiator hoses and essential

shopping-cart rattle dance steps

for the locked heat

of rippling car doors.

She throws her cans at an Olds

two at a time until she’s

out of cans. She throws her

blonde wig at a mini-van

that drives over it.

Cops found her bite-sized

inside a dumpster.

Chasing A River’s Shadow Play

I’m going to take you, River, as you took Kelly in Cummington. Go ahead, laugh all you want. I know Whitman, Lorca and Ginsburg were here first and you devoured them. I don’t care. I carry the Wandering O’Hara gene. I have my lyrical impulses to prove and my mother to honor into sainthood. If the city is mine it’s because the city is this moment and I’ll die if I don’t roar about it in your wake.

Faces rush past me, ripping off my ears. I stop to sniff for you as I study a poster for a revival of Godot in Chelsea. Sex toys for sale in a window. Lube by the gallon. This isn’t you. I walk west down 22nd Street and I see myself as a kitten on a fire escape with its saucer of milk. Innocence and the sordid collide. Dildo rhymes with meadow. Wordplay, River, won’t dance my soul away from seizing you.

I see myself again inside the last of the 20th century phone booths reflected upside down in a diner window on Tenth Avenue. You and I both know this diner is soon to be museum piece, a modernist installation. Art. What a laugh. I can’t afford art. Neither can you. Yet it remains our luxurious guilty pleasure.

Nor can I afford this yearning toward your currents and all the profundity I uncover in the average person’s daily and gritty resistance to failure. There’s a realist and a dreamer in me, River, and they both say that poverty and work aren’t crimes. They can’t be helped. They’re as necessary as you are. You knew this. You saw so much of yourself in me.

I hunt your ghosts, River, in the shallows of each alley I venture to penetrate. I stumble across your old friends Hubert Selby, and Kenneth Fearing. How they roared back when men wore prideful Stetsons, pumped gas for a living, fought wars in Germany and lived to eat sandwiches from an Automat. Nobody listened much then, either.

Flynn, you tell me, keep one step ahead of the pricks out there.

River, you’re a lion, a shadow within shadows and you knew this city as a stickball yard, choice of peep shows, joyrides with a beer on the ferry to Staten Island. You knew a Jewish intellectual formalist mentor in Shapiro, the two of you a pair of chummy vets together making the Village scene back when it mattered that a River could not only sing but count scansion.

You wandered, River, before Eisenhower built the highways. Penned that Whitmanesque love song to America and your crossing, thumb out, to find your buddy Eberhardt and flood with him a hill above the Puget Sound.

Me and Richard, you say, we wrote our poems while we watched them build Seattle.

I see your cherubic face in the dank windows of an Irish tap and I wonder how long before this bar disappears and all of your riverfront life from dockwollopers to Eugene O’Neill becomes gentrified, clean and respectable.

I drift east and uptown to see you in the leer of a big-bellied vendor in apron at a magazine stand, in the hot steam that fogs the neon above a sizzling sausage grill, and in the fumes that leak from a manhole seam.

River, little has changed when it comes to the frothing discontent of the straphangers chasing their dimes. One glance after another, I see them busted, bent and zapped – their bodies speeded along through grim blocks scented with a python’s treacherous ambition.

Life remains a subway ride to nowhere on a Saturday afternoon in the rain. The Beast, Number One, north to south and back again. I’m on it. I’m riding. I’ll find you, River. I’ll better you. I’ll devour you. I’ve an exploding cigar in my pocket. A craving that defies gravity.

I’m open to it all and dwarfed.

A Dozen Lemons In Autotropolis

Some sort of destiny awaits this place.

James M. Cain


Treading the pages of a sunshine noir potboiler

hearing imagined songs for the glory of all races

flaunting seasonal fetishes, failures and flavors

fabrications dissolve in my open hands. My open mind.

Separate but equal. By cars, tobacco, houses, cemetery plots.

We are tribes within a spectacle of fences. I get this now.

I switch to philosophy, the Frenchman Gaston Bachelard

who sees felicity in a hermit’s intense poverty.

Gaston, you were obviously never poor.

My closed mind.

I walk along, watching a limousine pass a church

asking myself what kind of ruthless meteorite faith must be

to drive faith here in this neighborhood.

Or are they just naïve dreamers?

Every Thursday night I hear their choir

reverently relinquish all that is false

in the name of love. Celebrating what we gain

when we are unselfish and do not fear ephemeral injustices.

Their minds

as one.


Now the symbols of what I purchase become

that which makes me who I am. So many

realities, removes, titles, degrees,

divisions, hyphens, ghettoes, component systems

departmentalized pigeon-holed show-off

mondo-maniacal the-mission-is-me cultura.

I got this friend Maria Gonzalez and she keeps

reading the signs Pupuseria, Lavanderia,

Assiguros de Auto. Maria reaches LUCY’S taco stand

a stucco palace, of course, in bright orange with a mermaid

hand-painted crudely and the word Mariscos in scarlet.

Picnic benches around the order window, sun-faded

steel umbrellas trying so hard to be bright and tropical

for this dingy corner of Washington and Hoover

where the asphalt steam throws up roadside renditions

of every Mexican ghost killed by white men.

Chewing her lunch, one hand on the wheel, driving along

in a pokey Western style Maria sees through her windshield

a phalanx of helicopters overhead. She ignores them.

She loves the fumes filling her car, braised beef tamales

fried onion rings and she translates the Spanish of a billboard

advertising Tide. She’s upset over the use of one idiom

the debasing of all languages by advertising execs

who don’t give a damn. She turns on the radio. Mexico, yeah

viva la raza has a new president. The news

all day long has been his election and all the changes

he’ll bring to the good people of Mexico. Oh God

I hope so, she thinks. God I hope so.

Sometimes, Maria isn’t sure which nation she lives in.

She should care, but she doesn’t. She assumes

she shares this confusion with the Philippine Heavenly Florist

the Korean Smog Inspection And Repair mechanic

the Salvadoran Botanica clerk and the Armenian Volcano

Restaurant waiter. Uncomfortable she is, not caring

but she must survive. This is America, after all.

A long sleepy dream-entrenched myth

for the new century and the old ones. Not a real place.

So she’ll keep reading the signs.

And she’ll get by, God willing she’ll get by.


I saw Hollywood Man driving his Miata through Koreatown.

Down Olympia, crossing Western, which scares him.

He can’t say why. Maybe it’s those huge vertical signs in Korean.

A silver Mercedes pulls up next to him. It’s driven by

a Botox Used-To-Be that’s maybe 35

could be 50 and is likely a member of the AARP,

worked long ago she did in a TV sitcom.

She looks in her rearview to check signs of fading.

After her mortgage, it’s payment and more payment

to cosmetic surgeons that keep her alert to leakage.

Hollywood Man begins to feel it

a special lust to action, rightful trumpets to hark

as man, man, man. That slice of cheesecake

in the Benz wants him to play chase-me-down and he’s willing.

When the light changes and she drives off

he tails her pedal-to-the-metal and screwed

to radar on the 5 Freeway heading south

flaring in dream visions of ambrosial fornication under the palms.

What does Hollywood Man get for all his hunting?

Orange County without a single orange tree left,

the size of Delaware in a monoxide choke-hold.

And there he is, Hollywood Man

lifetimes later still at home in home movies

tracking platinum-peroxide dunes.


Tracee’s a lesbian gaffer who works in Burbank

hails from Santa Rosa, feels so close to everyone today.

The Guatemalans, Vietnamese, Russians, Salvadorans,

Japanese, the Koreans, the Mexicans, the Nigerians

the weight of their chained heels against her nipples.

That’s what it’s like to live in America.

Whitey hemorrhages guilt in unpredictable cycles,

ever anxious with a weapon.

It’s Tracee’s burden to know history, not to be ashamed

or guilty, but to live in the present and not generalize

or demand and least of all expect anything as if freedom

was her birthright. There are no rights

when money dictates how you dry up.

Churn as much swag as possible.

And wouldn’t you come here if your government

was torching children and killing land?

Don’t lie, thinks Tracee, sure you would.

She’s getting it. The purest racism

comes from notions of entitlement.

All is for sale. Pay as you play. New world like the old

built on bones of the disadvantaged.


These immigrants of all stripes they get to Via sometimes.

She hates hearing them speak of Americans

in the third person. It’s hard to not feel defensive

since these immigrants live and certainly work here

it’s their country, too. What are they waiting for?

Why not claim it as their own?

Via copes. She’s got the disengagement m.o. down pat.

Her unruffled Zen indifference

won’t feel a thing except movies perhaps

and if she hates today it’s because she hates herself

and all the brandy and Zoloft

she needs to keep breathing.

On another day she’ll pity neighbors and immigrants

who aspire like herself to do more than drown occasionally

and take out chainsaws each evening

to carve out vital organs

and leave them on windowsills to dry.

It’s habit-forming.


My buddy Roger prefers surface streets

avenue bridges and all sly slinking passages

alive in the hills that live within him.

Roger’s hipper than hip, born and raised in it.

The chrome-glare flash on the horizon is like the sparkle in his eye.

He knows the wide bruised-air chaos

orderly metallic rooftop rush-hour color palette

he’s king of ambiguous detachment on cruise-control

medicated hemisphere themepark Roger

riding Roger in his Toyota on the 10, the 5, the 405

narcotic mural breakfast gluing him apocalyptic

to harmonies that promise there is no music

no art and no value in all the Hype.

Just let it speak an abstraction, he says

and screw Europe America art and tradition.

Me and Roger canoe MLK Way like Lewis and Clark among Sioux

into underside warrens of history paving its shadows.

Where pod malls rise from Mesozoic rants

Muslims with megaphones on the corner of Florence

barking through free-speech bullhorns

their cosmic crossings with Korans and Bibles

and points of view. Not denying history, no sir

these fuckers mean business and everybody fears them.

Another anchor store closed in the Baldwin Hills Mall

more jobs lost and more space for crack-heads to pow-wow.

Hip-hop kids in sweat suits wait in line for the latest Eddie comedy

at the Magic Johnson Cineplex. Graffiti fouling

murals that beg love to flourish as a vato Honda with oversized

chrome wheels spreads the ire of seismic drum-and-bass

trip-hop-trance-groove cannons for every zipless hangover

and wake-up-to-pain on the block.

It’s all here cry the Muslims. In the Koran.

In this elevated pedway archeology

where oleander-paisley-wilting Timothy Bleary runways shimmer

and even enlightened playuhz feel imperiled

driving strapped-in with the AC on

tinted windows rolled up, laser-proof and long on guile.

Roger’s dealer tells him at gunpoint

I seen history here revising itself, too, you know.

Roger doesn’t know, but his credit’s good and he’s allowed to pretend.


I’ve hooked up with Marcus and we are entranced

riding on Hoover until traffic is stopped.

What has occurred? Marcus knows right away.

Someone’s been killed. He looks at me. He doesn’t say it.

I can read him. Why’d I bring your white ass to this hood anyway?

I say nothing. I observe. This squirming in my loins

is what it means to be aware in the American city.

Dangerous when at peace.

I listen to Marcus make rhymes. Helps him relax.

He raps over the wheel, Go phuck yr-self and yr cowboys too

messing with my party – course your sistah looks fine

when I’m high on E.

I don’t laugh at the lyric. Nothing humors in this city

I always feel way behind.

I’m thinking that someone’s friend is dead now.

Never had a name, says Marcus. Until the arrest report wuz done.

North of us on Hoover

near Pepperdine used to be

Willy Hilburn sells insurance with a sawed-off shotgun

under his counter. Willy calls Hoover the Damascus Road.

We’ll ride it, anyway, black man and white

amigos co-conspirators compadres pals and a challenging sight

for racists. That’s why we do it. We want unity.

We are the future and all that its rivers carry.

We watch an army of boots and Joe Fridays

stretch yellow ribbons. At least there’s a mixture

of race among them. Marcus says, Five-O dialing homicide.

Sign of the times, Yo. Big bad sign o’ the times.


A blues master after a concert

told a group of us in an alley

he was once so horny he climbed a car’s fender

and grooved his candle into its radiator.

My automobile rules my life. I’m nothing

without her. Dawn smells like benzene and dusk

like her carbonic residues. She’s a feline slipper

I’m her snap-on tool, gaga over gear-box ratios.

Dream of a red light, another car, intersection, motion

for six yards and then a pause, six more yards, another pause

I wake up famished for vinyl and fiberglass

doughnuts the size of steering wheels.

O’ to lance my carburetor’s bung

until I pass out in a concrete bed.

Without you I’m a ciudad lost

to motor-court masturbation

rubber rodeo reverie combustion

timing-chain deductible fire collisions

fuzzy dice and lanes for pissing…

fill her up… Christ, let me fill her…


The faces of murdered exiles.

This is their land.

In Mex-American slang I’m an Anglo, a gabacho.

I’m no puton, but I’m a gringo guilty of conquest.

In one paranoid version of California reality,

I’m an uninvited guest inside the country where I was born.

Yes, Mr. Congressman, your backhanded earnings

buy all the insulation you need.

Most days when I wake up, my first question is

What in the Jee-zuss-H am I doing here?

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