INFECTED


I’ve been poisoned 

By too many poisonous demons

Posing as friends

Posing as human beings

Lying about their past and their future intentions 

Stealing everything of mine

They thought I cared about

Money, trophies, and work

That I had paid for in blood, sweat and marriages 

But they got me wrong 

I couldn’t be found there 

For I was already somewhere else

Someone else 

Someone stronger

Someone colder

Their resentment actually empowering me

For all they did was prove 

That material things are just that

They don’t get you to sleep at night

They don’t buy you a genuine embrace

They don’t ease your mind or your load 

They don’t short cut you into heaven 

They don’t justify your rusted conscience 

For to lose it all

Is to finally be free

To shed every skin of protection

Until you are as liberated

As a new born naked baby

Free falling to a soft landing

And accepting it all 

Pining for nothing except this moment 

Where no memory exists

And there are no debts to be repaid

No one to breathe life into 

And no eyes that can make me flinch

For when I look at you now

I see into your very soul

(C) Frank Howson 2020

I SAW A FUTURE

I saw a future. Or perhaps just a dream. A city where rats the size of dogs scurried along streets, growing stronger feeding on toxic waste. Crowded sidewalks filled with beggars begging beggars for a crumb. Or some leftover soup. Or a new messiah.

The billionaires were safely living in their gated, climate controlled glass domes, inventing wars, viruses, and new political puppets.

I saw Satan on the news channels every night. He is a very eloquent speaker and seems like a cool guy to hang with. He has everyone conned and no doubt thinks we’re fools. But we don’t care anymore. And therein lies the problem. He hasn’t defeated us. We have. We are suffering from the deadliest virus of all – apathy.

I’ve sometimes wondered where my life will end? In the gutter, in a mansion, or on a plane suspended between two places? Between here and there. Near and far. 

At school we were brainwashed with our teachers’ political beliefs, assumptions, approved view of history, religion, regrets, and frustrations. They have groomed us to live the same disappointing life they’ve lived. Sing c’est la vie.

My heart is wearing out from the residue worry of things I don’t even clearly remember anymore.

I do believe that God sends us signs. And the other day I passed one that said, “Eat More Cake.” It spoke to me. Although I felt sad for Marie Antoinette who lost her head saying much the same thing.

My refrigerator has been talking to me about conspiracies. It told me it knew who killed the Kennedys, but said my life would be in danger if it informed me. I thanked it for caring about my welfare and turned in for the night. At the Godly hour of 3am I was awakened by the pillow whispering in my ear. It told me it knew who killed Anthony Bourdain. I told it to “Fuck off!”

 

(C) Frank Howson 2020

THERE’S A TRAIN A’COMIN’.

I think I was wounded a while ago. Around that time you said goodbye. I remember it rained as if on cue. But you hanged me on every word. I guess I had it comin’. You see, I believed in you.  And once a man opens his heart like that, the high noon train pulls into town. Someone must’ve telegraphed my vulnerability to near and far, and the resentful saddled up. I think I might get shot dead, right here on this street where we first kissed. Under that deceitful moon. Will you shed a tear for me? Will I even be missed? Was I ever noticed? Tell me it ain’t been for nothin’. Tell me I’ll leave a mark. I guess we should’ve had kids for that, but you were rarely allowed out after dark. How did I get cast as an outlaw? How come I’m always on the run? I remember being a sweet faced boy who only ever wanted to do right. I hope they don’t shoot me in the back. That’s a coward’s death. I want to stare them down. Way down to hell and back. Want ‘em to know what I’ve been livin’ with. Want ‘em to know I know who they are. Sorry, but time has hardened me. I told you I could change. But you wouldn’t commit, would you? I told you to jump and I’d catch you in my arms. But you didn’t trust me, did you? I guess you’d been wounded too. So here we are on Main Street of some dusty shithole backlot town. We both deserved more than this, ending up in a B grade cowboy movie. I could see you as Joan of Arc. And me as Mr. Chips. Ah, what a pair we’d have made. But Central Casting had no imagination and fucked us up. Y’know I’d have laid down my life for you, just so you could walk over me. How’s that for a loyalty not found in all those thieves who stalked your doorstep? I’m gonna have some words to say to God when I see him later today. Why did he torture me by sending an angel and then cutting off my arms? We were just two poor kids thrown together, and saw something of ourselves in each other’s eyes. Maybe I lost myself in you. That’s why you grew stronger at my expense. And if so, I don’t regret it. For I cared more about you than myself anyway. And as the clock strikes twelve, I’ve grown as wise as the servants, and as gentle as the doves. Having said that, there’s a train to meet, my love, so I’ll just leave it here and say farewell. 

 

(C) Frank Howson 2020

TOGETHER AGAIN

I used to be Kit Carson

But I lost my way

So I changed my name

To Danny Kaye

And uprooted myself

To Hollywood

Where the people

Were socially minded and good

I bought a nice house

With a swimming pool

And sent my kids

To the finest school

I drank and had fist fights

With Errol Flynn

Until that limey bastard

Did me in

They say the universe

Is a living thing

So I guess you could call it God

Or some thing

I remember the second time

I saw your face

You were workin’ the street

To get your own place

I bought you a coffee

Just to pick your mind

In the next morning’s papers

They said I was kind

I don’t understand

Where I’ve been goin’ wrong

I guess I took my good luck

And sold it for a song

I sold you too

Which wasn’t nice

If I’d waited 6 months

I’d have gotten twice the price

You didn’t understand me

Now or then

But that doesn’t mean

We can’t be together again…

 

Frank Howson (c) 2020

YOU LOOKED AT ME

There was a window

In the chaos

When you looked at me

Confirming my existence

And it all seemed right

Across a semi-crowded room

Of nothingness

And recycled opinions

Based upon acceptable misinformation

And yet

I saw something real

And in that brief moment

We beheld truth

Sometimes it’s the words

That get in our way

And cloud what’s true

Always keeping us at a safe distance

With a funny line

A trivial story about something

That means nothing anymore

A recalled memory of a time

Now lost

And misremembered like a scene

From a movie

The further we drift from it

The more romantic it becomes

In our mental scrapbook of lies

Rewritten so many times

That  it becomes easier to live with

These are the things we do

For self-preservation

If the world disappoints

We create another

And then another

Until we find ourselves

So far from home

We can never navigate our way back

Alone

In the dark

Eventually someone will come along

To smash all our delusions

And we will hate them for it

But they are in fact our saviour

Humbling us

Relieving us of our baggage

So that we can travel light

Into the pure existence

Of our eternal soul

Where words are no longer necessary

 

(C) Frank Howson. 2020

 

photograph by Vanessa Allan.

HEAVENLY.

I have only a limited amount of time left to inhabit this body. But I will go on. Like we all do. As a speck of dust floating in the universe. Free, untroubled, and no more time constraints. Oh, and the music, the symphony of silence, which will move even a speck to feel whole like never before.

Having been educated for a lifetime on earth, we are acclimatised to being alone. But it won’t bother us anymore because we’ll now know that it’s at our core to be this way. On earth we lived outwardly for the enjoyment of others, whilst living our real spiritual life within our heads.

It was good preparation for this new life. Our real life. Devoid of any more death or disappointments in this void amidst the great vastness of all voids. Drifting. Weightless. Nowhere to go for there is no “where.” There is only here. And now. No time to be on time somewhere. No further commitments or responsibilities. Nothing to feel guilty about for there are no religions in this new place of real love and peace. All that belonged back in that ant-like existence when we had so little consciousness we could never comprehend the complexities, and yet simplicity, of this great vastness and freedom of being. In this new existence you can let your mind wander for a thousand years, even a million, in old time, and then snap back to a moment before that thought even occurred.

You now realise that the great artists – the writers, the painters and the composers – instinctively understood it.

Finally, we are fulfilled with a capacity to love that was once capped on earth by a ceiling we feared pushing beyond. But now, we experience it to the full which unleashes a bliss to make each of us feel like God. Because in this moment that never ends, we are God.

I was young just yesterday, and now I am older than the world will ever be.

Looking back at my earth life, I now realise that most of us were only living because we feared dying.

But there’s nothing to it.

 

(c) Frank Howson 2020

THE MEANING OF SUCCESS.

The word success is almost impossible to define, as it means something different to just about everyone. It’s much too large than a single word can contain,  because it’s a concept. A floating concept that bends and morphs and matures as we do. What we think it means at the beginning of our journey, may be vastly different to what it means at the end. It’s a dream that, once it’s seemingly fulfilled, may be considered a burden. A curse. A prison cell. A nightmare.

Perhaps it’s God’s sneakiest joke on us all. Giving us what we think we want, in order to find out first hand how hollow it ultimately becomes. 

McCartney hit it on the head, simplifying it to “Can’t Buy Me Love.” A record we could dance to, even if the concept was way beyond our comprehension at the time. Perhaps Paul was starting to understand how restrictive a “successful” life can be.

One of the Ten Commandments states that “Thou Shalt Not Worship False Gods.”  I have interpreted that to include money = success. For I’ve seen first hand people worship it at the expense of their family, friends, colleagues, ethics, talent and own life.  Their “concept” of success was so delusional it eventually devalued every thing of true value in their life.

I was once privileged to have had a song of mine selected for inclusion on the Ferrets’ second album “Fame At Any Price.” I loved that album title then, as I love it now. It was prophetically apt for a band that self-combusted shortly after its release. Perhaps from the pressure of having to follow-up a Number One single and a Gold debut album “Dreams of a Love,” which incidentally also featured a song of mine entitled “Killing Ourselves.”  A lyric about the friends of mine who were falling in action during the Melbourne heroin epidemic of the Seventies. That song proved prophetic for the band too.

It’s one thing to crave success. It’s another to have the stomach for it. People take drugs like heroin to numb themselves to the world around them. Isn’t it bizarre that when many performers finally break through and achieve the success they’ve craved, they reach out to self-medicate themselves to…what? The pain of it? The disappointment that the concept of success was so much more thrilling than the reality? Or is it their fear that they, mere mortals, are suddenly treated like gods, and know they can’t sustain this facade for long without publicly falling? False prophets for a false society. 

It says a lot about our society that Elvis Presley, the most famous and desired man in the world, died of loneliness. Photographs of him towards the end show a man who is dull-eyed, self-medicated to the point of not knowing where he is, and clearly not having a good time. He even mocks himself in his final heartbreaking performances as if all his dignity is gone. Pity the man who inherits the world, but loses his soul?

We are fed the “Dream” to keep us productive, and striving day to night to achieve our goal, so we can be happy. But, what if, as Judy found out, there’s nothing at the end of the rainbow except burnt-out, broken, despairing suckers?

I always thought the rainbow ended on the corners of Hollywood Boulevard and Western. It almost did for me one night, but that’s another story. And there are millions of stories in the naked city.

My father worked his guts out from 6am until 5pm every day in a thankless job that paid him nowhere near his worth. Then he’d come home and drink. Do you blame him? I sure as hell didn’t. He dreamed of reaching retirement age and getting a big payout. He didn’t make it. In one of the final lines in Arthur Miller’s cathartic play Death of a Salesman, “…No one dast blame this man…He just had the wrong dreams. All wrong.”

How much of our lives are wasted chasing the wrong dreams? “When I get a nice new car I’ll be happy!”…”When I get married I’ll be happy!”…”When I get a nice house I’ll be happy!”…”When I have a child I’ll be happy!”…”When I get divorced I’ll be happy!”… “When I can retire and live as I want I’ll be happy!” etc., etc. The truth is, we’re not happy to begin with. One thing I’ve learnt from my own experience is that money and success won’t make you happy. In fact, they will just amplify the painful reality that you aren’t.  In order to enjoy money and success, you must be happy within yourself before you obtain them. Otherwise they are weights around your neck that’ll drag you down to the bottom of the ocean.

Bob Dylan once said that “a successful man is someone who gets up in the morning and goes to bed each night and in between does exactly what he wants.” So, there you have it. Real success is freedom. The freedom to be who you are, and do what you want to do.

I’ve always admired people who are good at what they do. That’s probably a working class respect I inherited from my parents who much admired skilled tradespeople.

America used to have a healthy competitive pride whereby whatever job you had, people wanted to be the best at it. Whether it was driving a cab, being a shoeshine boy, a bellboy, a clerk, a hot dog vendor, etc.

I’ve seen waiters in Los Angeles, old guys who had made a career of it, and they were perfection personified. It was riveting to observe their attention to detail, manners, diplomacy, professionalism, and so on. The top guys made a fortune in tips and deserved every dime. But more than the money, they prided themselves on being the best. Some, were legends. I was in awe of them and paid them great respect. 

So, what is success? Is it determined by money? Or by your ability? Or what others think of you? Or how loved you are by your family? Or how many people know your name? Or how many of your peers respect you? Or how fulfilled you are within yourself?

Because, if we don’t know the answer to that, it means most of us have been striving for something that is so elusive, it is even beyond us. And, if we don’t know what we’re seeking,  how can we expect to find it? Or ever be content?

I like to walk a lot and, when I do, observe people. You could say it’s part of my job. And in my journeys into the outside world, I have from time to time passed many happy people. The happy family man. The happy young girl walking hand-in-hand with her love. The happy little boy who puts his protective arm around his younger sister and smiles at her. The happy busker who has a captive audience and a hat full of money. The happy taxi driver who loves to chat with his passengers and treat each as a new friend. And so on. To me, all these types are successful people. In the truest sense of the word. They are happy within themselves and thus radiate happiness outward. They have not been shackled by expectations. Either of our own making, or of others. 

I have also seen and met some of the wealthiest, most powerful and famous people in the world whilst I lived in L.A, and quite a few were utterly miserable, and made everyone in their presence feel the same.

In the some of the final lines of the classic movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” it is stated, “No man is a failure who has friends.”

I believe that. I have some very true, loyal friends. Their rock solid friendship make me feel successful, happy and content for having found them. No matter what I do professionally, or don’t do, or they do or don’t,  we have achieved something rare, precious and beautiful. Something real. 

 

(c) Frank Howson 2020

photograph by Vanessa Allan.

THE MAN IN QUESTION

I looked into the man’s face. It was etched with suffering. He had no doubt fallen many times in his battles with Life. It looked to me like the greatest pain had not come due to the falls, but from the effort required to rise, and rise again. I also observed the deep laugh lines that’d gathered around each eye resembling a spider’s web. Yes, this man had lived life to the full. He had triumphed many times and learnt nothing from it. That’s because the recipe for success changes frequently. No. It was from his failures he’d learnt everything. And the reason for them had been simple – he’d gone against his instinct.

He’d survived many things in his life. Wars, plagues, floods, marriages, injury, slander, lawsuits, success, failure, gambling, death threats, betrayals, great wealth, poverty, love, broken hearts, rejection, addiction, vicious dogs, adultery, asthma, poisoning, tightrope walking, gangsters, drive-by shooters, merchant bankers, and long debates with actors. As such, these days, it was difficult to get him excited much, or fearful at all.

He’d beaten his demons, and was proud of it. But it’d been some of his friends who’d done him the most damage. They’d posed as friends but were really opportunistic spiritual vampires, sucking off his life force in order to live through him. And when they’d been found out and cut like a cancer out of his life, they had flayed about like dying sharks biting at his reputation with lies, exaggerations and groundless accusations. Most of what they accused him of were acts they’d done. The fact that they were so blatantly hypocritical was what hurt most of all. And from then on, he’d rationed his loyalty to those who’d proved theirs to him.

Now, he spent much of his time looking for things he hadn’t found. It made him as expectant as Jungle Jim on a safari.

He’d once stopped a cab and gotten out to wander through a desolate, ravaged field that beheld the remains of what’d once been a theatre. The taxi driver was bewildered as to what his frantic passenger was looking for. Whatever had been here was long gone, he thought, as his meter ticked away. But his forlorn travelling companion was searching for something only he could see. His youth.

Sometimes, late at night, he wished he was dead. But there was a safety net in knowing God never granted his wishes. This knowledge scared him with the recurring nightmare that he may live forever. And that’d be his punishment for having lived too well for a few years at the peak of his success, when he was too young and too busy to have enjoyed it. He’d once had immense power and never abused it. He’d also held the key to many vulnerable hearts and never used it. The facts, as opposed to the gossip, would show that his integrity was never bought. So God took these opportunities away and seduced someone else with them.

In exchange, the man in question, was given a rented studio apartment and enough food to get by. He was also granted the solitude to reflect on the follies of life, and write about them with a rich appreciation of God’s sense of humour.

He’d figured out the secret to God – He is passive. Having granted us free will he sits back and watches what we do with it. If you wanted action, you had to consult his competitive estranged brother, Satan. But that loan shark had interest rates that’d severely cripple your life, and could never be repaid due to the compounding penalties given only passing mention in the very small print.

And if you accepted that deal, you’d end up worse than alone.

The man who sat in front of me, felt many things. But he’d given up feeling what didn’t matter anymore. He told himself that he had enough heart left for one more great love. But she’d have to be an extraordinary woman, and he now suspected that such a perfect match only existed in dreams. Or delusions. He wasn’t sure what the correct word was anymore. All he knew was that God loved to tease him with possibilities that went nowhere that only foolish younger men or, those older bodies on the brink of madness, pursued. 

He laughed out loud at how younger women now delighted in taunting him. They took so much but gave very little in return. They knew the art of getting away Scott free, and would only be able to get away with it a few more years before they too ended up alone. It was all about the promise and how much could be taken in the shadow of that. While one could. He knew all their tricks now and that rendered the game too predictable to hold his attention long. They hadn’t known him in his prime, nor would they’ve had the opportunity to. But these were different times. There were very few who could see past surface layers to find true love. Soul to soul.

How much do you have to hurt before you feel nothing anymore?

How much do you have to love before it means nothing anymore?

This man hasn’t aged from living. He’d aged from giving. And now all those who’d taken from him could celebrate the fact that there was nothing left.

They’d conquered something that felt important to them, but they couldn’t analyse what it was, or why they’d felt such compulsion to deplete it.

After all, they were good people, weren’t they? I mean, they wouldn’t hurt a fly.

The man now, each day, felt his spirit leaving his body and wondered what kind of life his shell would have. He thought, perhaps, he might be more socially accepted in this zombie-like state.

But who knew such things? And who the hell would even think about it? Other than a man with too much time on his hands, who’d stopped momentarily at the crossroads.

That was when I realised I’d been observing myself and the extraction had been successful.

 

(C) Frank Howson 2020.

THE NEW VIRUS SPEAK.

Now is the hour of our incontinence made glory-holed by sons of Michael Yorke. “Bark” the Hells Angels sing. It is a Far East bitter thing I do now than I have ever dung. And on the bend the milk we shake is a quill to the love we break. Frankly, my deer, I don’t give a ram. And in the cruel, cruel, cruel of Jehovah, tell ‘em I’ll be bare. To flee or not to flee that is the equator. Four scored ears of men, our country assed us, “Do not ask what your country has done to you. Ask what you have done to your country.” And on the eighth day, God created mini-golf. These are a few of my Fahrenheit rings. Either this wallpaper blows or I do. “Right,” said Ted, are you having a larf?” At the third stroke, it will be a felony. Once I had a putrid glove. Love me Fender, love it tuned, all my screams are billed. When the goanna gets rough, get stuffed I’m goin’. Our father’s art is in heaven, Howard be thy blame. Twice upon a crime, a gem with windy hair lost her head in mime, and sad she loved me show. But that was ice above my lime, mammy months too low. Mammaries fight the confines of the blind. All clothed mystery mammaries of the day we stir. I luv you and dunce you regret it. It is the evening of the summer of the mourning that whence we came. The midget you fell through the floor, I could pee you were a mad ol’ distemper, a reel pig bender. I’m dreamin’ of a wide bagel, with hairy gals I sow. Fairy flossed da mercy. M-m-m-my Corona. Th-th-that’s Paul, yokes!

 

(c) Frank Howson 2020

STAR

The thing about a star is, you can take that person and drop them into obscurity in some remote place that doesn’t know who they are, and given time, they will shine again. Stars do that. They are made tough by their early lives of not fitting in. But that very thing later became their strength and the foundation of their originality. They are conceived in darkness and magic. Pain and grit. Dreams and horrors.

Some grow a hard exterior to protect their extreme sensitivity. And most will misjudge them. Their guards are invisible to the eye, but shield the kindness that has been taken advantage of by far too many. They learn to save the very best of themselves for their work. So it is in the work that they truly live, and with some luck, live on. They appear to be social creatures but in truth are hermits. Existing only fully in the deepest, safest refuge of the soul. It is this situation that leads many observers to ponder why they are wiser in their work than they are in real life.

It is a lonely place being caught in the spotlight. There are no safety nets, no parents, no friends, no protection whatsoever, only pure sweat and talent. But it is only there, in that lonely space that has become their only world that means anything, that they know who they are. The rest of life is just hanging around and waiting. Some die from hanging too long.

The dream and the curse walk hand in hand in Lonesome Town, where the streets are deserted, and the bums possess all the knowledge of Life. The fortune tellers, having glimpsed the future, left in the dead of night. And the terminally bewildered wander aimlessly along that fine line between delusion and someone’s personal view of reality. It is a dangerous journey, without road signs, and lined with an endless array of fire-breathing windmills that will break a million Don Quixotes.

Once you have purchased your ticket for this merry-go-round, there is no getting off. You can attempt to stop what you do, but that will only create a bigger hunger for those wanting to gate-crash your fake death with more ill-informed opinions and senseless questions. There are no answers. That’s what Art teaches  us.

All there is, is a long road. A road you once tried to find love on in order to have a travelling companion.

You wonder whether you said the wrong thing, or gave too much, or gave too little. But, as already stated, there are no answers. Only questions. And these questions will surely drive you into madness.

Your torture for having finally amassed so much wisdom, is to have no one to share it with. That’s ironic.

But, that’s Life.

 

(C) Frank Howson 2020