Laughing Cult: Poems

Laughing Cult: Poems

by Kevin McCaffrey
Laughing Cult: Poems

Laughing Cult: Poems

by Kevin McCaffrey


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Inspired by the spirit and approach of Bertolt Brecht's Manual of Piety, the poems of Laughing Cult often employ the structures of ballads, folksongs, and other traditional forms to create miniature sketches marked by romantic ambiguity, occultism, science fiction, and quirky angst. As cool in tone as a Lee Konitz solo and as lacking in affect as pop art, this first collection includes numerous poems that have appeared on the Exquisite Corpse website. To shape something aesthetically charged out of the spent elements and enervated thoughts of a slowly failing society: that's the challenge Laughing Cult has set for itself. These are two-dimensional poems for a one-dimensional age.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781940423012
Publisher: Four Winds Press
Publication date: 04/22/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 112
File size: 434 KB

About the Author

Kevin McCaffrey is the author of the horror novel Nightmare Therapy. He works at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Poems from Laughing Cult:

At the very lengthy meeting

At the very lengthy meeting
I actually felt my soul leave my body
and rush toward the ceiling--
and fly around the walls and flare
towards daylight, towards the windows--
to throw silently its impetuous emptiness
against the glass in vain.
It could not go anywhere, the clear moth.

Then it lay on the rug, not exhausted
but bored and so inert that it almost--
though nothing--
took on a hue, stained with all the breaths
and words and thoughts that filled the room:
the yellow-green color of old teeth.


Sorry I have been quiet today, but you know
how I am. When I don't know what
to do I do nothing, just spending
time playing mind games
with you, friend, throughout the languid afternoon
until the long-awaited buzz of the
evening news and the two of us turn
to this something to do, to this not that much
but still something. The world is out there
just where it should be.

The mechanical wistfulness of your companionship tantalizes
me, yet I am not without self-doubt.
What is my life? Put on the music and
get the cards, Robot. Tonight
is the night we play for keeps.

An astronaut resigns himself to love

We could have done this thing my way and ripped
her from the portal where she'd limped, then doused
her mercilessly, drenching her with washes
of liquidated time to show our friend
the mystery of her sense of self and what
that indicated--and naturally to add
a touch of goblin music to the mix
would have ensured results as is well known
to everyone but you apparently;
instead you chose untried approaches that,
if we inhabited a moonscape of dreams
would work just fine, but here where mud, when wet,
still sticks if thrown, I mean thrown hard, against
a wall or better yet a statue named
"New Ways of Doing Things," the way you tried
to make things clear, so clear a child could see,
has scripted patterns to her sense by which
she will elude all clarity and stay.
She who, if left alone, would have attained
her own sure knowledge that she had to go,
will never leave the station now, but binds
our two unwilling bodies with her gravity.
The manual warns us astronauts of
the hazards born of giving space to love--
she joins us in our orbits of ourselves:
weightless as we are, there is no counterforce.

Performance evaluation

Maybe the kinds of things I am trying
to do are not the kinds of things I want
to do and that is why my performance,
while generally fine, is lacking in
enthusiasm. Some call me even-keeled;
my bearing's understated, muted, bland,
and in my inner mental life--my mind
in other words--it's much the same: the flame
is turned to low so that "the pumpkin's cooked
inexpertly" to quote the chef from near the patch
in Fairy Glen whose pies were deemed expressive
of all that comes from vegetables grown
in the cool soil of lengthy nights. Just say
the dial is set to low in the oven
of my mind, which, to start another thread
(while putting one bad metaphor to bed),
is filled with half a dozen feelings and
maybe a hundred thoughts which recur
in finite patterns like an irksome fugue,
so that the thinker--me--is bored. Thus, it's
not the job alone, Mr. Newlin, sir,
it's how the job and I combine that is
a matter for our mutual concern.

How I lost faith in my inner voice

I'll stop listening to the voice in
my head if you stop listening to yours
and I'll stop writing down what it says, too, Philip,
as if it has some sort of deep significance.
There, in the ponderous whisperings between
my ears, I always thought insights were to be heard,
but maybe I was wrong about this, wrong
as is almost my hobby, wrong in everything,
unlike you, I know, who're always so right--
right in the morning right in the evening
and so on and so on until the day you're wrong
and take a page out of my book and wear
my moccasins--but back to what's at hand:
through focusing attention and deeming
my inner voice oracular, enraptured, I
recorded its every word and marveled how
its bland, convincing tone reminded me
somehow of Andy Warhol--listless, fey,
a puerile Sybil fully gassed, entranced,
delivering profundities that were,
it finally hit me, not that deep. I thought
this voice to be my true voice, that which speaks
at the very core of my so-called self:
my all-American, red-white-and-blue
voice...well, if not quite that--it was Warholian,
and who thinks of him as wrapped in the flag?...
at any rate it spoke to me, this voice--
alluring, charming, soft--effusing thoughts
like: "I want to learn the ways of smoke
and follow smoke into the hills," or this:
"What kinds of sounds do your animal selves
unleash when they are freed?" These utterances
enthralled me for years until something
about this inner voice, its snaky sibilance
I guess, began to make me think these were
mere fabrications, forms without substance,
fantastic words that, simulating truths,
were high in fat and low in actual meat;
strangely, the dictum that sealed the deal
began: "I'll stop listening to the voice in
my head if you stop listening to yours."
It was the kind of thing I'd heard before
and so have you if you've listened to me--
it just becomes less convincing over time.

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