Category: Words

Prose and poetry, for the most part

Habilis (for RK)Habilis (for RK)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:24 am

If I could paint
the most necessary painting
a portrait setting
the Dutch Masters to shame

it would be you

If I could have my fingers play
in perfect rhythms and changes across
the strings and frets
a pure and balanced melody

it would be you

If I could make my
feet to move
and carry me across the floor
with grace and sureness in the dance

it would be you

But I fingerpaint
play the kazoo
and crawl everywhere I go

And there’s no making of mine
that will make you mine
and no more need be said.

(Published in Weekly Alibi, Vol. 9, No. 6, Feb. 10-16, 2000. Copyright 2000, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:26 am

She said, “You’re cute
and everything,
but save your crystals and auras—

You want to talk
with me, lover-boy, give me your
fractal components
of the self-replicating
inflationary universe, or give me your
omnidirectional time-line
of subatomic particles,
or give me your imaginary number
in the tachyon formula—

or fuck it, just shut up
and give me your tongue.”

(Published in Weekly Alibi, Vol. 8, No. 6, Feb. 11-17, 1999. Copyright 1999, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Kent 1940Kent 1940

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:16 pm

Children in a trench, crouching
with faces upturned—
England during the war.

One girl, oldest of the lot
somewhere in her teens
open-collared shirt, sweater
with a hole, dark hair
pulled back from her brow
covering ears; dark eyes
hopeful and anxious
in a face of timeless beauty—
a face made for falling for
across an ocean
across time.

She would be older
than my mother
if she’s even
still alive.

(Published in Weekly Alibi, Vol. 8, No. 6, Feb. 11-17, 1999. Copyright 1999, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

For Lucille, Whose Name Means LightFor Lucille, Whose Name Means Light

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 7:03 am

do something to me. tell me
how happy you are to
see me. see me
looking at you looking
around the room to see
whoever else you may know
who may be here.

smile. do something to me. tell me
how well you’ve been doing—
it’s been a long time.
you look
great (your hat is cute). your hair
is so much longer now; straighter,
too. it looks like silk.
you look ten years younger.
i’d forgotten
how beautiful you are. (i like
your hair like that).

do something to me. now
walk away.
i’ll walk the other way.

(Published in Weekly Alibi, Vol. 7, No. 6, Feb. 11-17, 1998. Copyright 1998, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

The SunThe Sun

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:10 pm

pants down around my legs,
shirt unbuttoned—
the stink of my sweat—
i walk with small steps,
shoes untied.

the sun is coming up.

(Published in Weekly Alibi, Vol. 7, No. 6, Feb. 11-17, 1998. Copyright 1998, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Small Blue Poem #4Small Blue Poem #4

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 7:40 am

returned from the drugstore today—
Come see!
My angel,
Italian with a moustache and passion enough
for two—for ten! The whole town!
Her hand on my leg, my hand
on hers, then; Pink Baltic Hand,
meet Brown Adriatic Hand—shake.

Here, she sits at picnic table
and eats—a piece
of her chocolate birthday cake.
“Is it my chocolate birthday, then?”

how she holds the white plastic
fork poised
before her mouth.

how her breasts push against
her green silk blouse.

how her legs are
lost in shadow cast
by her flowered skirt.

(Published in Weekly Alibi, Vol. 7, No. 6, Feb. 11-17, 1998. Copyright 1998, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Capitano’s RomanceCapitano’s Romance

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:55 am

Valentine and Spider
Fucking on the couch—
Spider works his mandibles,
Valentine cries, “Ouch!”

Book-lung’s punk inside her,
Sowing next year’s crop—
When he lets his poison flow,
Valentine grunts, “Stop!”

Our arachnid rides her,
Thinking “Stop!” means “Go!”—
His Valentine’s a girl known for
Confusing “Suck” with “Blow.”

Done, old eight-legs hides her
Underneath the stair—
He says, “My wife, she doesn’t like
Fish; it fugs the air.”

Val rots while he derides her,
Sucks her juices out—
He’ll wear her nipples on his vest,
And on his pants, her pout.

(Published in Weekly Alibi, Vol. 5, No. 5, Feb. 7-13, 1996. Copyright 1996, 2023 by Tetman Callis.

In Working Real Life (from The Surfacing Tool)In Working Real Life (from The Surfacing Tool)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:34 am

Coming up next, anyone could, then, in a working real-life family,
believe women could not have children.

What are we, a beer? Ah, thanks. Thinking my
name behind it, the right side changing direction, I’ve been
working all summer just to try and learn a holler,
as well as the first word: Stingrays don’t attack humans.

You are home to the first search for work: my family.
She’s got something to get on the road: kissing noises (it’s a miracle).
Join us and our furry little friends, speaking German rapidly.
Yes. Or ja. Now, we’re going to go on to the next question:
every move you make?
(shouting)(cheers and applause)

(Originally published in EOAGH, Issue 5, 2009. Copyright 2009, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:02 pm

snails make the most disgusting sound
when they’re crunching underfoot

it’s a wet, fleshy crunch,
light on the crackle component

somewhat exotic and french,
in that regard

still, one wouldn’t want to walk
about in the grass
barefooted after it rains,
when there are scores of snails in the yard
many of them up by the house
right in front of the doors

camouflaged by darwin’s god
better it would be now
if they were day-glo orange

or carried harder shells
or less meat
or moved faster
or weren’t snails

(Originally published in Oxford Magazine, Vol. XVII, 2003. Copyright 2003, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:04 am

chicago’s the dumpy one
nobody ever asks her out and nobody’s ever going to
except maybe that guy
the one who works for the plumber
she doesn’t have anything to wear
it’s like trying to dress a potato

her sister new york’s the one who got all the looks
nice figure too and lots of style
lots of taste
always well dressed and going somewhere
she can have any man she wants
but she’s picky
she has class and she’s not going cheap into the bargain

their sister ellay is the one they don’t like to talk about
but they will if you ask
chicago will frown and new york will stick her nose up in the air
and they will tell you what a tramp their sister is
she goes around dressed in bathing suits and t-shirts and flip-flops
and she will sleep with anybody
and she’s a druggie too
whatever she can get her hands on
they won’t tell you they secretly think she’s the most interesting
even though she has never read a book

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:12 pm

after work today
i sat in a chair on the balcony
and read a book

a drying blue flower
fell out of the sky
and landed at my feet

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

this is the newsthis is the news

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:01 pm

this is the bbc news, the real thing,
coming at the top of the hour
immediately after a broadcast of the can-can
dedicated to an old guy for his birthday (he turns 86)

okay, here it is, here goes

couple robbed and murdered on their honeymoon

opposition politicians circle for the kill

scores of people killed in a stampede

a dozen climbers missing up a mountain

a couple of guys rescued at sea

an oddity of nature

the weather is rainy or not
or rainy and not

there are several traffic problems, listen close

that’s it, i don’t know what to do with it either
except do this

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

the true story of the missing yearsthe true story of the missing years

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:46 am

yesterday was my daughter’s thirty-fourth birthday.
my eldest child, born while i was still in high school.

at the start of our dinner yesterday evening, my third wife and i
raised our wine glasses and drank a toast to this daughter.
while we ate we watched a movie on the magic talking box,
a movie about a businessman and a whore who fall in love.
it was sweet, and not overly unintelligent,
with a happy ending.

last night i dreamed it was thirty-four years ago
(and somewhere in this universe it is).
i was in the hospital room of the mother of my daughter
and my daughter was just born. she was still gooey;
that is, covered in the blood and other goo of the neonate.
the mother of my daughter was my girlfriend and never my wife,
though we did talk about it. her parents were in the room, too,
though their presence was not central to the plot of the dream.

though she had just been born, and i may even have seen
the last few moments of her birth, my daughter—our daughter—
had a full head of short, spiky hair, dark at the roots and
golden at the tips. and she was laughing! she was the happiest
baby you could imagine, laughing and giggling, and her mother
was laughing and smiling, too. she said to me—that is,
my girlfriend of thirty-four years ago said to me,
this is the true story of the missing years. she said,
i’m not giving her up for adoption like i did,
i’m keeping her and raising her as my own, she is
my own, you saw her come out of me. we were happy.

when i woke up this morning, i was in a part of the universe
at least thirty-four years removed from any hospital rooms
with laughing newborns and new versions of true stories.
i was back in that part of the universe where my girlfriend
never held her baby, our daughter, and neither did i;
where we gave the child up for adoption a few days after
she was born, never saw her smile, never heard her laugh,
don’t know how she may have come to wear her hair;
where she was as gone as though she had never existed,
and as ever-present as our hearts.

(Copyright 2009, 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

the conduitthe conduit

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:27 pm

if there’s nothing new under the sun,
should our searchings be confined to the shadows?

in the shaded places would we have any hope to find
crystals that might in the open reflect and refract
colors we could never name?

our world is old and dying.

our words echo down empty wells.

something scurries in the darkness.

we don’t know its name,
it draws near.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

the companionthe companion

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:11 am

you reach a certain age, you think about
death all the time. not that it’s an obsession.
it’s a companion, with you while you walk
along the sidewalk, cars speeding past you
down the street, inches away (inches
away). with you when you cross the street
(jaywalking? against the light?). with you while
you ride your ten-speed bike (not fast enough,
your bike, not massive enough, no protective
cage). with you when you eat your dinner.

with you when you do your morning push-ups,
jumping jacks, running in place (going nowhere).
all but holding your hand when you hack up
clots of sputum, too much smoking for too
many years (the surgeon general warned you—
he warned you! you wouldn’t listen). you watch
your diet and watch your weight. you watch
and wait, you’re never alone now. you
couldn’t be more alone.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:48 pm

you think it’s romantic
you think
it’s romantic that too drunk to get
off the couch
swilling beer whiskey cheap wine
mornings afternoons you think
it’s romantic that too drunk to get
off the floor in front of the t.v.
the baby’s crying his diaper sopping
wet so romantic so poetic well
you go live it
you go live it
you tell me how romantic
you go live it and you tell me

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)


Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:47 am

yard full of dogs
barking two houses down
any and all hours of the night

one dozen local cats (give or take)
fighting spitting yowling
screeching spats in syncopation
with the yard of dogs

snoring wife
she subvocalizes too
sometimes even calls out
words she never hears

middle-aged bladder
parked atop my piss-pipe
demanding attentive relief in the dark

this has gone on for months
secret police know the toll
not long before he breaks down
confesses to everything

later in the day at my desk in the office
no place to lie down
no carpet on the hardwood floor
the boss right around the corner

my chair is on wheels
the floor is smooth
no sleeping here no sleeping

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

west texas, 1969west texas, 1969

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:49 pm

i had the desert, it was mine
when the plates were flying across the kitchen to smash against the walls
i had the desert
it was mine to escape to and to wander in
its vast empty sky
hot sun burning my pale pink skin
whirling dust devils
tall khaki columns against the clear blue sky
dusty sand of quartz and limestone
round black stink bugs scurrying along
their butts in the air
menacing robber flies buzzing by in their zig-zag flight
tumbleweeds and wildflowers
dry grasses and goat’s-head stickers
clumps of mesquite and stands of greasewood sheltering jackrabbits
high-trilling ground squirrels heard but rarely seen
timidly scampering lizards
flanks pulsing with their breathing
shiny snouts and pinhole nostrils
dark beady eyes and tiny sharp claws
tails that came off to lay twitching in the sand
horny toads with their hundred spines
wide mouths and flat bodies
air of wisdom and of patience longer than any lifetime
grey coyotes with their howls
their sidelong glances and loping gait
they were of the desert as i was of the desert
they were mine as i was theirs
we sheltered ourselves together
keeping always our wary distance

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Correction Ribbon Song #7Correction Ribbon Song #7

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:20 am

not at all (for he does exude a regal air).
pick a name: pie eye, a stock name for drab mob.

areopagite, receive time, foe.
bitten, i’m odd.
date, name, i said.
did you attempt it?
weakling, not an artificer, is at tollhouse,
is yearning not to yearn (alibi).

law, house, and town
done gone and hit the riser.
dew-daddy said, she, son, is aware of no web.
i’m teaching of ogle pie.

ecumenical tears, my lieb, abrogate a rift.
nominal goes the road before the king.
day, come down, dismember.
(tit cankered a day for you, life. self-nubile,
you arm many a clucking maid;
so sure, you elocute car jags.)

tea service neat, egg hid, equal,
dew-daddy says, can’t count a sty, or you.
odd, that a man rages.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Correction Ribbon Song #6Correction Ribbon Song #6

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 4:51 pm

you rot.
i retch.

date, try to scream. i covet,
got cot, and my hug flits wit, rends seam.
(is nine; is late;
say, oh, good evening, maw.)

foist ads. hi ho,
ha ha—lax game, yo mo-fo (hi ho).

of old, my child, new egg,
gut ohio, rust veal,
later reign. nude, you saw salomé lie down, for by your love—
no. i/you halves. you have a liar, damn you,
talisman tin.

i opt self, selfness, tin urals.
you domesticate trysts, lose four
who never seemed neighbors. (room, me snoring, sad doze.)
lion matrimoan, i hit, run. rot name-setter,
rat ovum distinguished, i ought lock niche, tug non satyra,
eject vomit. gone, i vomit steel, fey to follow armada.
you’re gorgeous, desultory.
say it—to feed image, hit gun ire.

to negate wit, ale kid.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Correction Ribbon Song #5Correction Ribbon Song #5

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 6:29 am

no stint.
you lose elation, stench.

sure, et al. is a moot clearing of throats. sit at tidy
near dark. tut, tut—
stay—lay—i’ll put on airs, sow a wave.

to vid okay—kiss. (oh, toy! right!)
rented door on this vaj, he dial you first.
secure you die, exclaim, oh! lewd is rancid.
(weak me, first nodding man.
damn, be a capulet, capitulate easy. i be an ex.)

newer, a tenuous creek,
a kind guy, i/you.
fit, all i had is you. (oy.)

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Correction Ribbon Song #4Correction Ribbon Song #4

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:01 pm

pestilence, pustules you cause—
nah. (sit tight, rap sill.)
oh, i wedded it, lode caring hotly if i rob—
or, by harm done, nettled steed swears slanders,
coward to the dead.

tuneful cadger, exhaling, exhuming,
he starts it tough. oh, stay new. hot racing
pushes my rate. i—
i kid—
i kiddle little loser
(loser, right, yet the deed).

on royal purple pus should tie here an eye,
how ought not i vie i.

i axe.
he sob,
no, it’s a loss
i albatross.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Correction Ribbon Song #3Correction Ribbon Song #3

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 7:15 am

mmmmmm . . .

some folks like to glue shards back into pots.
sometimes eros phones up, he says, it’s time to hammer.

you pluck slag by laughing.
do sigh, it suits a dream sadder than victory
(i ate my cheerful hi!).

i ought to grub for an enigmatic nod, hum
drum, run detail, lose i.d. and cough. i baste

two swatches with whisper, add
flirtation, tell stingray soul, na la la, it’s so
that is, you have regal oh’s.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)

Correction Ribbon Song #2Correction Ribbon Song #2

Tetman Callis 0 Comments 5:19 pm

if i be a whore for doing,
seize not the cessation of day.
see it (see it),
hey it, nay it—
or, sir, it’s a ninny’s to-do.

even to nod to sin as it raps down heat (a pox pot
boils—excise it.), oh, hard by sad bed.
enough of hi, my friend.

cupped hands dial phone at ten
(i might fear and meet success).
live, see job/ligation—

some ought, some will—
at your touch, my lion gate opens.

(Copyright 2023 by Tetman Callis.)