Month: May 2023

the new prometheusthe new prometheus

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:59 pm

the last of the gods
lonely bastard
not content to create one batch of stalwarts prostrate in fear and hunger and worship
he created two more
an unholy trinity of religions to fight for ages over which of them is daddy’s favorite

and now he’s dying
but being a god he’s taking his sweet time about it
and taking as many as he can of his misbegotten children along with him
into the hell of his own creation

this could go on for centuries
he’s already on life support
his children await a new prometheus to come and pull the plug

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

firefight erupts in fallujahfirefight erupts in fallujah

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:05 am

headline in this morning’s paper—firefight erupts in fallujah
as though a firefight were some phenomenon such as a thunderstorm
or a volcano or an earthquake or a plague
some terrifying disease

which is true

true also that headline writers
are constrained by the amount of space they must fill on a page
and the amount of time they can spend on filling it

firefight erupts in fallujah

not enough space on the page to write something more expansive or poetic
something along the lines of my god my god what have we done?
something overwrought like that to match the situation

a firefight erupts in fallujah
and there is only so much space available and the font has to be a certain size
however the headline ends up reading it must fit into the same space

pride goeth before a fall is a little too short
though it could be said to fit the facts

the headline just as well could have been
terrifying sickness persists
that one both fits the facts and the allotted space

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:02 am

“An ugly person considereth himself handsomer than others until he sees his own face in the mirror. But when he sees his own ugly face in the mirror, it is then that he perceiveth the difference between himself and others. He that is really handsome never taunts anybody. And he that always talketh evil becometh a reviler. And as the swine always look for dirt and filth even when in the midst of a flower-garden, so the wicked always choose the evil out of both evil and good that others speak. Those, however, that are wise, on hearing the speeches of others that are intermixed with both good and evil, accept only what is good, like geese that always extract the milk only, though it be mixed with water. As the honest are always pained at speaking ill of others, so do the wicked always rejoice in doing the same thing. As the honest always feel pleasure in showing regard for the old, so do the wicked always take delight in aspersing the good. The honest are happy in not seeking for faults. The wicked are happy in seeking for them. The wicked ever speak ill of the honest. But the latter never injure the former, even if injured by them. What can be more ridiculous in the world than that those that are themselves wicked should represent the really honest as wicked?” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Sambhava Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

threatcon orangethreatcon orange

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:14 pm

we’re not going to do a briefcase-by-briefcase check.
we’re going to [ redacted ].
we may [ redacted ] the [ redacted ], put [ redacted ] the [ redacted ].
we don’t want to hurt business.

our [redacted] is vulnerable.
all [ redacted ]—six or seven every [redacted]—[ redacted ] the [redacted].
we’ll put an extra guard [ redacted ], change procedures.
[redacted] sets of eyes—[ redacted ] present at all times in [redacted].

have someone in your [ redacted ] at all times.
or [ redacted ].

[ redacted ] probably a soft target.
it would be kudos to bad guys [ redacted ].
major concern is [redacted].
and [ redacted ].
we don’t have [ redacted ] the [redacted].
the [redacted]—[ redacted ] a [ redacted ] the [redacted].
any determined person could [ redacted ].

[redacted] are potential targets.
we’ve activated our emergency plan.
we’re keeping our eyes open and [ redacted ].

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

the latest war newsthe latest war news

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:02 am

up in the third third of the night, unable to return to sleep,
in my flannel robe i sit cross-legged on the floor in front of the television,
watching the latest war news—urban fighting and point-blank fire,
bunker-buster bombs and thousands of empty combat boots, firefights filmed
in unearthly green light, dead and wounded in uncounted numbers, palaces littered
with shattered marble and broken glass, rubble and fire and ceaseless black smoke
—all interspersed with ads for situation comedies, sleek and shiny high-powered cars,
and medicines that should do the trick (though there may be unfortunate side-effects).
i am advised to consult with my doctor, take out a low-interest loan, and stay tuned.

(Published in Folly, April 2010; copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:00 am

“Men scorched by mental grief, or suffering under bodily pain, feel as much refreshed in the companionship of their wives as a perspiring person in a cool bath. No man, even in anger, should ever do anything that is disagreeable to his wife, seeing that happiness, joy, and virtue, everything dependeth on the wife. A wife is the sacred field in which the husband is born himself.” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Sambhava Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

Memorial DayMemorial Day

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 7:36 am

The final letter

July 23, 1950
Dear Folks
I have a little more time to write now than I did the other day. In case you didn’t get the other letter there was $80 in Travelers checks in it.
We are aboard a Japanese Ship (I can’t pronounce the name of it) We will get to Korea in the morning or at least we are supposed to. We have to sleep on the floor, eat “C” rations, wash in helmets all the comforts of home.
Tell Bob that I am in a 57 M.M. Recoiless Rifle Section, which we do not have yet and I
haven’t ever seen either but we will get them in Korea. I am an ammunition bearer and carry a carbine. There is five men in our squad.
The coast of Japan is in sight now, it is only about a mile (1) away. The name of it is pronounced Sasabu (I don’t know how it is spelled)
We pick up a convoy of ships and escorts here I hope.
We drew 40 rounds of ammo this afternoon and will get some more tomorrow.
Tell Toby and the rest of the kids to be good and to behave themselves.
Okinawa (or what I saw of it) was dirty, filthy and almost primitive beyond your imagination.
I got seasick on the first day out of Frisco and again on the 11th, 12th + 13th days as we ran into a typhoon. Don’t ever believe that it isn’t a miserable feeling. I wanted to vomit till my boots came out my mouth. One of few times and I hope for the last I missed three complete meals so you know I must’ve been sick.
I did not have time to get my baggage and equipment that was stored in the Walker, so they just gave me new stuff in place of it.
Please keep these pictures for me.
Well I can think of anything else so I’ll close. Write soon

Mother or Daddy
Tell Lib to send Ann what money that she (Lib) thinks neccessary. I have made out an allotment to Lib.
In case I don’t get back, and I certainly do intende to, make the kids go to school, they will need all they can get.

The Ascension of Henry Callis

Corporal Henry Callis, younger brother to my father, was on a troopship steaming to Japan in the summer of 1950 when the Korean War broke out. He was on his way with several hundred other troops to join the 29th Regimental Combat Team on Okinawa and be part of the post-World-War-Two American Army of Occupation there. The regiment was understrength and had only two battalions, instead of the three called for by its full complement. Nobody had expected war in Korea. If war came, everybody expected it to be nuclear and against the Soviet Union.
Henry and the others on the troopship arrived at Okinawa one morning and learned their mission had changed. They were issued combat gear and company assignments. By sundown they were aboard another troopship along with the rest of the 29th and were on their way to the port of Pusan on the bottom-right corner of the Korean peninsula. A day later they arrived. They disembarked and headed up to the front line, the location of which no one was certain. The North Koreans had launched a devastating surprise attack to start the war against South Korea a few weeks earlier, and were still on the march. What few American troops were available in Japan had been rushed to South Korea to help the shattered South Korean army. They were being overwhelmed. The North Korean army was large and well-equipped, well-trained and possessed of many veterans of the Chinese Civil War, which had ended the previous autumn. The situation was fluid and becoming desperate.
The soldiers of the 29th Regimental Combat Team were told they were going to fight a couple hundred communist guerrillas near a town called Hadong-ri. They headed that way by train and then by truck, and then by foot. Their rifles and machine guns were all new. The machine guns were still packed away in their protective shipping grease when the regiment got to Pusan. They hadn’t been test-fired and their sights hadn’t been aligned. And not all the equipment had been distributed. Not all the regiment’s doctors had medical tools and supplies.
The men — boys almost, like Henry, who had himself just turned twenty that spring — were very confident and very green. Very few of them, maybe about one out of every one hundred, were Second World War combat veterans. These were generally the sergeants and not the commissioned officers.
The regiment drew near to Hadong-ri and deployed along a ridge with one battalion on one side of the road and the other on the other. They saw a few soldiers moving around in the valley in front of them. They weren’t sure if these were stray South Korean soldiers, but they thought it likely that’s what they were. They had been told they would be mopping up guerrillas and they didn’t expect to see uniformed soldiers in front of them. The regiment’s commander and his staff got out of their jeeps and stood in the road at the top of the ridge and tried to figure out what was going on. They stood in a clump. Binoculars hung from straps around their necks and they held maps in their hands. Mortar and recoilless rifle fire slammed into the ridge. The first shots killed the regimental commander and his staff. The regiment was not facing a group of ragged irregulars they outnumbered five to one. They were up against a crack North Korean division that outnumbered them ten to one.
It was not long before the 29th Regimental Combat Team was shattered and routed. Its fragments were driven back down off the ridge and through the rice paddies behind it. Hundreds of American soldiers were killed or went missing. Henry was one of the missing. The soldiers were so new to their companies that many of them didn’t know each others’ names. There was no one who knew Henry Callis who survived the battle and could say what had happened to him. He was as gone as though he had vanished from the face of the earth, lifted up bodily in the rapture of war.

the candy-bar contestthe candy-bar contest

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:25 pm

the candy-bar wrapper says
i’m having a contest
you could win a truckload of money
buy me and open me up and see

so i do

the candy-bar wrapper says
sorry, you are not a winner
sorry, try again
sorry, this will rot your insides out
sorry, your tire just went flat
sorry, your last four checks bounced
sorry, your cat ran away
sorry, your dog was last seen chasing your cat
sorry, your wife was last seen chasing some dog

sorry, the candy-bar wrapper says
thanks for playing

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

the clientthe client

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 7:05 am

i see pencilled in on the calendar
that this morning i am to visit the jail
and deliver an order of the court
to my client held there. fuck. what

should i tell her? the truth? fuck that.
here’s the truth: she doesn’t have
a snowball’s chance in hell of being
released on any kind of bond. she’s

going to be held by the feds until they
try her sometime next year, then she’s
going to be found guilty and sentenced
to five years in federal lock-up, after

which sentence she’ll be deported back
to her home country, the muslim nation
where she’s a christian decidedly in
the minority, where she’ll be harassed

until one night a mob will come to her
home and rape her and kill her and
mutilate her corpse. can’t tell her that.
got to put on a happy face and tell her

everything will be all right, that we’ll
get her out soon. i think i’ll go in
early and get a breakfast burrito. didn’t
get a chance to have much of a supper

last night. some food right now might
improve my mood. then i can tell
my client anything i damn well please,
so long as i don’t tell her the truth.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 7:02 am

“The wife is a man’s half. The wife is the first of friends. The wife is the root of religion, profit, and desire. The wife is the root of salvation. They that have wives can perform religious acts. They that have wives can lead domestic lives. They that have wives have the means to be cheerful. They that have wives can achieve good fortune. Sweet-speeched wives are friends on occasions of joy. They are as fathers on occasions of religious acts. They are mothers in sickness and woe. Even in the deep woods to a traveller a wife is his refreshment and solace. He that hath a wife is trusted by all.” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Sambhava Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

october 2001october 2001

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:37 pm

an acquired fear of roaring skies
moved me to my knees before
the sun-room window

fighter-jets climbing from the local air force base
one-by-one climbing straight up
rolling on their axes
flashing their wings in sunrise sunlight
flashing and rolling and climbing as though
they were living things themselves
roaring into autumn morning
screaming into life

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:30 am

i got a phone call today from the newest inmate
a street-sweeping girl who’s managed to fuck her way to the bottom
now she’s in the county jail
doing light time in a heavy place

she’s kicking
kicking the heavy doors
kicking the concrete walls
kicking the h—
kicking the m—
wants to kick some a—
but she’s on the target end of this kicking line
no rockette she
no high-shooting flyer
just a low-flying shooter
just a girl in the can who can’t again until her kick-out date

and i tell her, nicole,
you gotta stay outta that place

i know
she says
i know

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:28 am

“By a son one conquereth the three worlds. By a son’s son, one enjoyeth eternity. And by a grandson’s son great-grand-fathers enjoy everlasting happiness.” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Sambhava Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

the dead-baby truckthe dead-baby truck

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:09 pm

there’s this truck
it’s the dead-baby truck
it’s being driven around downtown
it’s as big as a moving van
its license plates are out-of-state
its driver is this old guy
he wears flannel shirts and a feed cap
his jaw is set pretty hard

his dead-baby truck has these pictures
huge photographic blow-ups on its sides
they’re as big as the sides of a moving van
they’re pictures of dead babies
itty-bitty babies next to coins
tiny babies posed in fresh red stuff
the red stuff looks like blood
it may be blood
the dead babies are posed so that their hands
their little dead and bloody hands
are clutching at the coins
quarters and dimes
who knew quarters and dimes are so big
who knew a photographer could get dead babies
could get them to hold on to coins

the old guy in the flannel shirt
and the billed cap on his head
and the grim expression on his face
he drives the dead-baby truck around downtown
he drives it up and down all the downtown streets
he drives it past all the office workers who are going to eat their lunches
he doesn’t honk his horn or try to call attention to himself
but it’s a big truck
big as a moving van
and it has these big pictures on its sides
of bloody dead babies clutching at coins
it has a phone number too
and a website address

a car follows right behind the dead-baby truck
it’s a white sedan that looks like a police car
it has a black spotlight
extra radio aerials
some letters and numbers painted on its trunk
a prisoners’ cage in the back seat
a red-white-and-blue license plate
it follows right behind the dead-baby truck
it goes when the truck goes
turns when the truck turns
stops when the truck stops
a guy in sunglasses drives it

office workers go to lunch
the dead-baby truck goes by
the white sedan goes by
some of the office workers look
most don’t
they are hungry
lunch is never long enough

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

the billsthe bills

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:10 am

do this for me:
get my paycheck from the attorney
bring it by the jail
at the jail you can pick up the paper so you can cash the check
go cash the check then pay the cable television bill
give the rest of the money to billy from the restaurant
he can pay the credit cards
if i have to i’ll sell my car and we can pay the rest of the bills with that
the attorney will have to wait
his bill’s too fucking big anyway
and i’m still sitting here in jail

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:07 am

“Sakuntala having worshipped the king according to proper form, told him, ‘This is thy son, O king ! Let him be installed as thy heir-apparent ! O king, this child, like unto a celestial, hath been begotten by thee upon me! Therefore, O best of men, fulfill now the promise thou gavest me! Call to mind, O thou of great good fortune, the agreement thou hadst made on the occasion of thy union with me in the asylum of Kanwa!’ The king, hearing these her words, and remembering everything, said, ‘I do not remember anything. Who art thou, O wicked woman in ascetic guise? I do not remember having any connection with thee in respect of Dharma, Kama and Arthas. Go or stay or do as thou pleasest!’ Thus addressed by him, the fair-coloured innocent one became abashed. Grief deprived her of consciousness and she stood for a time like a wooden post. Soon, however, her eyes became red like copper and her lips began to quiver. And the glances she now and then cast upon the king seemed to burn the latter. Her rising wrath, however, and the fire of her asceticism, she extinguished within herself by an extraordinary effort. Collecting her thoughts in a moment, her heart possessed with sorrow and rage, she thus addressed her lord in anger, looking at him, ‘Knowing everything, O monarch, how canst thou, like an inferior person, thus say that thou knowest it not? Thy heart is a witness to the truth or falsehood of this matter. Therefore, speak truly without degrading thyself! He who being one thing representeth himself as another thing to others, is like a thief and a robber of his own self. Of what sin is he not capable? Thou thinkest that thou alone hast knowledge of thy deed. But knowest thou not that the Ancient, Omniscient one (Narayana) liveth in thy heart ? He knoweth all thy sins, and thou sinnest in His presence! He that sins thinks that none observes him. But he is observed by the gods and by Him also who is in every heart. The Sun, the Moon, the Air, the Fire, the Earth, the Sky, Water, the heart, Yama, the day, the night, both twilights, and Dharma, all witness the acts of man! Yama, the son of Suryya, takes no account of the sins of him with whom Narayana the witness of all acts is gratified! But he with whom Narayana is not gratified is tortured for his sins by Yama! Him who degradeth himself by representing his self falsely, the gods never bless. Even his own soul blesseth him not. I am a wife devoted to my husband. I have come of my own accord, it is true. But do not, on that account, treat me with disrespect. I am thy wife and, therefore, deserve to be treated respectfully!” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Sambhava Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

the bus stopthe bus stop

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:05 pm

the bus stop is missing its benches and trash cans
scars remain on the sidewalks

women talking on cell phones
crossing against the lights
trot across the plastic faux-brick sidewalks

fat men in knit shirts lumber slowly along
their mouths hanging open

traffic slows to a stop

young women wear tight clothes
their buttons straining

we are the children of soldiers
our breath is labored
our sky is gray

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

curriculum vitaecurriculum vitae

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:04 am

my name’s the quarter-a-day habit
and i’m not much fun to live with

i don’t pick up after myself
do the dishes
empty the trash
clean the house
or put the clothes away

or make the bed
clean the toilet
wash the car
or rake the yard

it should go without saying
but in case it doesn’t
i don’t do windows

i’m a lazy little bitch
really bad with money
and a terrible waster of time
but i’m a great fuck

if you’re into my kind of fuck

which you will be if we do

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:01 am

“Women should not live long in the houses of their paternal or maternal relations. Such residence is destructive of their reputation, their good conduct, their virtue.” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Sambhava Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

the warthe war

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:56 pm

everybody in the city is talking about the weather
the dusty sky
how the entire city smells of housecat
how no rain has rained in weeks and weeks
no rain to settle the dust
wash away the sprayings

everybody in the city is talking about the forests
how if it doesn’t rain soon the woods will surely burn

nobody in the city is talking about the war

(Published in 580 Split, Issue 12, 2010; copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:09 am

some say it’s no fun being a junkie but
it does give one a certain raison d’etre
a reason for getting up in the morning
or the evening or the afternoon or whenever one
happens to be getting up in the middle of the night

the hours to be up and at ‘em
up and at the walls
scratching and pounding
up and at the doors
kicking them open
kicking them closed

up and at the windows
staring through a ghostly reflected face

up and at the telephone
calling the special friend
i’m sorry i woke you but please can i come over right now please

some say the nicest thing about being a junkie
is everything is crystal-clear
all superfluities sloughed off
all distractions burned away in the cold heat of need
it leaves a body terrifically focused

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:06 am

“Remedies certainly exist for all curses, but no remedy can avail those cursed by their mother!” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Astika Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

losing track at four or fivelosing track at four or five

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:03 pm

it seems i spend all my
time working and cleaning house
when i’m not staring out the window at
the trees dancing on a thunderstorm wind while
taking a hit from what may be
my fourth or fifth joint of the day

it’s easy to lose track at four or five

i mean
it’s not the dancing trees that take the hit

that is
i’m sure i work
the trees are dancing
i’m taking hits
that’s a window
and there’s cleaning to be done

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:16 am

i am having the most
incredible high right now

i know the validity
of any statement made
while the maker is in such a state
is suspect

but i’ve been getting some intense
off this little roachy remainder
of a joint of roach-doap—


giggle me timbers
i’ll have another hit

(Published in High Street: Lawyers, Guns & Money in a Stoner’s New Mexico (2012, Outpost 19); copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:14 am

“It is from great foolishness that persons blinded by love of wealth always desire to make a partition of their patrimony. After effecting a partition they fight with each other, deluded by wealth. Then again, enemies in the guise of friends cause estrangements between ignorant and selfish men after they become separated in wealth, and pointing out faults confirm their quarrels, so that the latter soon fall one by one. Absolute ruin very soon overtakes the separated.” – The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Vol. I, Astika Parva of the Adi Parva, trans. Pratap Chandra Roy

walking by the candy storewalking by the candy store

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:04 pm

i was walking by the candy store
when i tripped and stumbled over myself
fell into a sticky-bud bush

lay there for about a week, stuck

it was hard to get up when i had only one free hand
the other gripped by gripping a loaded roachclip

a delightful dark light
an accursed, cursing, curvaceous bitch
my sweet lover, the loaded roachclip

stuck to the bush, flat on my back
i suck on the loaded roachclip, my lollipop

(Published in High Street: Lawyers, Guns & Money in a Stoner’s New Mexico (2012, Outpost 19); copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

returning from damascusreturning from damascus

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:16 am

when paul the attorney sees me in the hallway,
he says, i’m looking for justice. i tell him
there’s been a misunderstanding, that we no longer
speak that language here, that justice has left
the building, saying she’s not coming back
until we come to our collective senses, drive
the money-changers from the temple, burn
the temple to the ground, grind the rubble to a fine
gray ash, sprinkle the ash on our heads
while we wail and mourn and rend our fashionable
clothing, fall on our faces and weep into the dirt,
and promise her we will learn to speak her
language again. paul smiles at me as if i’ve lost my mind.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:15 am

“This Republic means something. It means something to me. I’ve buried a lot of soldiers, and my dad and mom fought in World War II, relatives that fought in a lot different wars. And this country means something, and Constitution means something. And it’s bigger than us, bigger than any one of us, and we’ve got to protect it. If we don’t protect it, then God help us down the road.” – Gen. Mark A. Milley, USA, November 17, 2021


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:55 pm

a tall and heavyset man feeds pigeons
in the asphalt parking lot across
the street from a church downtown. he’s old but
not decrepit. he sticks his thumb out at
a passing cyclist, as if to hitch
a ride. a few blocks away, an inmate
on the outs crosses a street against
the light. a waiting motorist guns his
engine. the motorist wears a white shirt
and a red necktie. a crystal given
him by an ex-girlfriend hangs from his
rear-view mirror. the inmate makes a
gesture, says, what’re you gonna do bitch,
run me over?
the motorist instantly
knows several truths he’s never wanted
to know. he knows them several times
over. the cyclist cycles past him where
he sits in his car, still at the light.
horns honk. pigeons fly, well-fed. he hit one
with his car once, a long time ago.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)