In his defense,
Virgil Butler
Was just trying to
Make a living.
Killing was in
His blood (he'd
Already done
Time for shoot
Ing a man out
Side Bob’s
Booze Hut on
The outskirts
Of Montgomery)
So the job at
Tyson was a
Every night
M-F Virgil
Would take the
Knife (its broad blade
Sharp enough to
Slice off a
Careless finger)
And with his thumb
Across the back of
The blade – for
Leverage – he’d hold
The knife in a
Position and wait to
Slit each throat
In one near-graceful
Motion arcing up
And across (in
A deadly semi-circle)
The throats of
Chickens (millions of
Them) as they
Swung past him
Hanging upside
Down on hooks
That dangled from
A conveyor belt
That wound through
The factory like a giant
Clanking runway.
The chickens
Were hung there
With manacled
Feet – all in a
Snit with wings
A-flapping and
A wild scared
Look in their
Beady little eyes
Their squawks
Of terror almost
Lost in the cacop
Hony of machinery
Making them
Appear to be
Engaged in some
Sort of wild pagan
Dance ritual.
Virgil would have to Grab the birds by
The neck pull down
And slash open
Their little throats
Their blood squirting
Everywhere until
By mid-shift Virgil’s
Station would be awash
In the sticky red stuff
And he would be coated
Head to waist
In it as well.
Often after his
Shift ended
Virgil would go
Home shirtless
And ashamed.
And in his dreams
The chickens would
Dance up to him
Full of life
Dancing to the
Fevered pitch of
A weird metallic
Music thumping
And rattling and
Reverberating on
This steamy dance
Floor – they came
To him alive and
Kicking and then
Left him lifeless
"Save the last
Dance for me"
Playing in the
Back of Virgil’s
Fevered sub-

Somewhere in time
Virgil’s dance card
Finally filled up and
He could no longer
Pick up that terrible
Knife and dispatch
Any more souls
Chicken or otherwise
In the name of Tyson.

But in the wee wee
Hours when sleep
Comes haltingly and
Nightmares interweave
With the waking world
As the chickens begin Their dance his hand forms as if by instinct That Caesarian position and it never gives the Live sign.

Freezing My Ass Off In Paradise

Maybe hell would be preferable
Over this saintly landscape
Where even the crows are laying low
Too cold to work their scams
On the general populace
Warming themselves on the
Smoking barrels of street justice

Hey Joe put one in the chamber for me

I saw a girl scoop up a pack of cigarettes
That had fallen from somebody’s pocket
Outside the gas station the other day
And tear off like she’d just scored bigtime
What’s the big deal I thought
But this is a time where everybody
From the prez down through the govenator
To Joe Blow
Is working some angle or another
Where a pack of smokes does matter
Could even be the difference
Between sanity and insanity and now

I’m at that age where the illusion of control
Has been stripped away almost completely
Where you realize that you’ve lost
Any semblance of command over your life
Right down to the simple functions of living:
Eating sleeping crapping or taking a piss
Even whether you can get it up
And Big Brother doesn’t merely press you
To yield anymore he (they) casually strolls
Into your cell and takes whatever dignity
You thought you had as if your life was
A piece of candy w/ a pretty foil wrapper
Sitting in a bowl on the coffee table

Help yourself man

And the lines begin to blur
You find yourself thinking of Richard Brautigan
Who seemingly had it all and still it wasn’t enough
To keep that 22 caliber pachinko ball
From bouncing around inside his head
Like an idea gone dangerously wrong
Turning that facile brain of his into
A dull gray pudding
Or Lew Welch disappearing into the woods
With Snyder’s Winchester
Hunting for some sort of salvation I guess

Was he going to have it stuffed and hung over the mantel?

Is this the winter of my discontent?
Is this really me warming my bones over a
Fire fueled by the sum total of my days spent
Wandering these asphalt corridors
Looking for THE answers?
Burn baby burn

This is me
Going through
The motions

Hey buddy throw another chapter in the barrel will ya?

© RD Armstrong