BLACK TAR

Writing

1 March/Posted by aaronplaat

Reading Time: 10 minutes

As a follow-up to my previous blog, I’d like to share a poem I recently received from a friend of mine, Peter, who lives on the streets of Portland.

Daily, Peter stands outside of Whole Foods, located in the Pearl District, and sells Street Roots newspapers to provide for his daily needs. On an average day, he requires about $20 to sustain himself.

On Christmas day, I invited Peter to join me for dinner. That evening, I learned a lot about him; how he lives on the streets, spiritual beliefs, and his testimony of being on heroin for nearly half a century. He’s been clean and sober for several years.

Recently, I went shopping for groceries and saw Peter standing at his usual spot. He didn’t have his usual cheer. So, I asked him how he was doing.

”Well, not so good. Somebody stole my bible.”

Living on the block, I quickly walked to my apartment and grabbed a bible for Peter.

Upon my return, he looked at the bible and said:

”This won’t do. I can’t read the print. I need a LARGE PRINT bible.”

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out a $20 bill and gave it to Peter.

“This should get you a large print bible from Powells.”

Immediately, Peter packed his bag (containing all of his possessions) as he thanked me for the gift.

Before he left, he gave me this poem – which he asked me to “put on the internet.”

I’ve transposed the poem, which was written on 17 pieces of paper, as it was written.

Black Tar

By Peter, at the corner of Whole Foods in Portland’s Pearl district.

INTRODUCTION

1

Below the city lights were faintly sparkling

As the sun set on a grey, sleep day

The setting sun through broken clouds a gleaming

Lit up the dingy, dirty alleyway

Where searching for a tiny vein I lay

I searched my ankle and my swollen legs

My legs all filled with burning, shooting pain

I stood all day and painfully did beg

On a leg filled with lumps the size of eggs

2

Alone I wandered by the old, train tracks

And found a bag of torn and tattered clothes

A foreign flag on a background of black

Displayed a royal elephant of gold

The checkered tablecloth was torn and old

A pretty, pink and blue, embroidered blanket

On it a large and beautiful, pink rose

The pretty rose was covered all in shit

I threw the tattered rags into a ditch

3

I wandered aimlessly around about

The sky was clear. The moon was big and bright

In the clear, moonlit sky one lonely cloud

Lit by the city lights and by the moonlight

Hung glowing, motionless all through the night

I wrapped up warm and slept without a dream

I spent the chilly night on grassy heights

And at sunrise I heard the sirens scream

The morning sun made white mist rise like steam

4

I woke afloat on a white, ghostly sea

In milk white skies, trees spread above my eyes

The air was filled with cold. The air did freeze

As I crawled deep into my bag to hide

I did my WAKE UP!, rolled a joint, got high

And fell asleep, all day I lay in bed

And while the sun walked slowly through the sky

I slept and dreamt about the City Red

A cold and lonely City of the Dead

THE WIZARD

5

They yearn for live, would live, if live they could

Their wailing ghosts adrift throughout the town

Adrift past ruins made from rotted wood

Adrift past ruins where dead souls wander up and down

And wander frantically all around

In search of drugs or cash to kill their pain

And wail and make soft, whining, weeping sounds

And know that they have really gone insane

And pray for rain to cool their rotting brains

6

The Queen of City Red is one most fair

Each day we share our opium and tea

We sit outside in the warm, summer air

Her hair flows in waves, just like the sea

And brightly sparkles, like her jewelry

My lady wears a shining, golden crown

Her eyes are sad and deep and very green

As with a modest smile the Queen looks down

She gently strokes her beautiful, green gown

7

We lie where only sun and moon can see

Atop her castle’s keep, beneath the sky

The Queen of City Red loves only me

Her eyes are wide and her cheekbones are high

She sighs and then she smiles with wounded pride

And yet is sweet and kind and very fair

For she is brave and not afraid to die

And we go winding down a winding, marble stair

To our balcony in the upper air

8

Where we can see the whole, wide world around

The mountaintops and all the countryside

The weeping trees surround the blood red town

Beneath a glowing orange, sunlight sky

Their leaves turned black, bark cracked they moan and cry

Their dead, black leaves have fallen to the ground

While high in orange skies the lizards fly

With horrible cries and screams and shrieking sounds

To towers tall and white and red and round

9

The flying lizard has wings like a bat

The soar up high in the hot orange sky

The beast is meaner than an angry cat

It has sharp teeth and claws, red, hate filled eyes

When they go home to rest the whole flock flies

To bloody towers made from human bones

Where flying lizards roost and spend the night

On stacks of bones behind thick walls of stone

The castle of the evil wizard, Jones

10

He eats our flesh and bones. We live alone

Alone amidst the smoke of burning dreams

The wicked wizard is the Lord of Broken Homes

And he is Lord of Pain and Lord of Screams

The Lord of Filthy Lies and Sick Twisted Schemes

The forest was a pretty, peaceful park

The happy trees had leaves all bright and green

Their fruit was tasty. They had smooth, white bark

Their leaves turned black because he broke their hearts

11

Before he came the sky was clear and blue

And golden apples hung from laughing trees

And we were happy, brave, bold, free and new

The park was filled with grass, new mown and green

And filled with ponds and streams cool, clear and clean

The City Blue and Gold lit up the night

And all the people dreamed in their happy dreams

A City Blue and Gold a gleaming bright

A city built from marble smooth and white

12 

He made the forest dreary, dead and dark

The frowning trees all crowd around and cry

Their bark is gnarled. Their eyes are cold and hard

The ponds and streams are gone. The ground is dry

The grass turned brown. The animals all died

The town of crumbling shacks is still and dead

In ruined streets, ghosts cry for black and white

And everyone is dead or else they fled

in the silent and empty City Red

13

Some say the wizard tumbled from the sky

Others that he was raised up from the sea

When he appeared we wailed with fear and cried

We knew forever broken we would be

In pain, anxiety and agony

Then from the void he called a hundred sprites

And with his tricks he set the demons free

And changed the sprites into a hundred knights

In armor shining white with banners bright

14

They ride on nightmares. They are fears and frights

That hide their faces in deepest, blackest dark

Their faces like skulls, their eyes a burning bright

They have breastplates of steel. Their swords are sharp

Ghosts tough as nails and cruel as a shark

So pray for summer rain to cool your brain

As the dark tears your mind and heart apart

And they will tell you what you have to pay

To make the evil wizard go away

THE BLACK

15

I cook the black in a spoon made for tea

And apply pressure to my tiny vein

Until it swells and I can see it bleed

I send heroine up into my brain

To heal my body and my soul from pain

And from my anxiety set me free

And wash the sky and make it blue again

And make the grass alive, new mown and green

Set free the weeping trees, make green the leaves

16

And wake the hungry ghosts up from the dead

Was clean their rotten world with summer rains

Turn blue and gold the rotted City Red

Wash clean our sickly, overheated brains

And set us free and make us kind and sane

And fill with water clean the ponds and streams

And give me back my hopes and dreams again

And make the City Blue and Gold all clean

And make the Forest Blue and Gold all green

17

All of the animals come back to live

The cheetahs, lions, rats, giraffes and bats

The gazelles and the elephants and mice

The mice and rats are not afraid of cats

The cats will never eat the mice or rats

The People feed them candy and ice cream

And kiss the bears and play on the giraffes

The animals are sweet and never mean

Their sunny says are filled with happy dreams

18

All of the flying lizards change to birds

Their horrid screams, their frightful curses and shrieks

Are turning into cheeps, coos, squawks and chirps

Of pigeons, gulls, sparrows and parakeets

That perch and sing on every laughing tree

Beneath a sky so sunny, bright and blue

A sky all filled with happy thoughts and dreams

My dreams of freedom, dreams of me and you

So very long ago when we were new

19

We stand atop a tower and look down 

Into the valley where the river rolls

it rolls on past the happy park and town

Past old homes made of stone and ivory domes

Where tribal kings sit upon ancient thrones

Under bronze bridges all green with verdigris

On mountainsides no bloody stacks of bones

Just ancient towers, rotted old and green

Where future Buddhas sit and dream their dream

20

We wander all around the happy town

And people smile and look into our eyes

The love we feel for them gets passed around

We share our eyes, the dreams in our clear skies

There are no lies. We have nothing to hide

Nothing is wrong. No sins we need forgive

With everyone we share one love, one life

WE ask for life and love and life we give

We ask for love and give and life we live

21

She whispers in the breeze and dances on air

And shares sugar and honey with the bees

She talks to unicorns and grizzly bears

And sings to birds that perch on happy trees

On the soft, green lawns side by side we sleep

All day we lie together on the grass

My lady smiles so very peacefully

Because the pain has gone away at last

And all our troubles and our cares have passed

WHAT WE USED TO BE

22

The sky is filled with dreams a drifting by

My dreams of long ago, afloat like clouds

So far way a floating in the sky

My memories, once lost, that now are found

A drifting by so high above the ground

And yet they are so close, they fill my mind

The things we used to do, the sights, the sounds

And who I really am, so deep inside

The feelings so distant and hard to find

23

The streetlights shine through our bedroom window

In parallel, bright white and shadowed stripes

And we are torn to pieces by light and shadow

Dark stripes of shadow and white stripes of light

Her body is divided by light and night

She softly sighs, her mouth is open wide

And with her arms and legs she holds me tight

And when she sighs I sweetly die inside

Die slashed to pieces by our venetian blinds

24

We are so warm and safe in our big house

We lie atop her tower, beneath the sky

Above us the big, hot stars wheel about

The grinning moon has big, round, hungry eyes

I hear her shout and dance for exercise

Our room is dark except for long, thin stripes

Of bright sunlight. She plays in the backyard

And drives away in our fast shiny car

I so miss those things that no longer are

25

So like a god in my fast, shiny car

I walk the earth with giant, mile long strides

And dance with Shiva on the farthest stars

Just like a hawk in the grey, smokey sky

Above the galaxies I soar and dive

I am so fast, the other cars I pass

A fragile thing, just like a butterfly

I know that I will never crash

For, like a god, I will forever last

26

To town we go, to drink in all the bars

Our friends are there, all dressed in party clothes

We talk about our fine careers and cars

Our business sense and our large, stylish homes

And why the police cars all park in rows

We feel so strong and brave and know not fear

As we all pedal that big, wooden coach

And sing together songs of love and beer

I love to drink and have my good friends near

27

She wears a halter top and torn, black hose

For she is dressed to show off her tattoos

A purple orchid wrapped around a rose

Sylvester, Tweety Bird and Doctor Doom

We drink and dance in a dark, smoke filled room

And watch poor girls get naked and slide on poles

And purchase funny and obscene balloons

And watch hobos crouching in their holes

We throw them money and feed them Joe Joes

28

Cops come in a running and the drunks all shout

We gather all around to see the fight

Men scream with rage and fear and shots ring out

Our hearts all pound with excitement and fright

The night is filled with brightly flashing lights

The police throw the perpetrator down

The little, fat man struggles and then cries

As police grind his face into the ground

To entertain the happy, drunken crowd

THE MONSTERS

29

They ground him way down deep into the ground

Way down into the ground, into the pit

The angry crowd all ground him down, way down

into the pit, no one gets out of it

For black is cut with shit and hard, black grit

For once it was with only sugar cut

For spite, not profit it is cut with shit

To fill my blood with mood and filthy crud

Fill me with agony and rend my guts

30

For dirt and grit are mixed into the shit

That we inject into our tiny veins

Silt fine enough to through the needles fit

The microbes find whole worlds on tiny grains

With mountains, valleys, seas and wide, flat plains

In deep, dark caverns bacteria hide

And while the black is boiling, there they stay 

In deep, dark caves the infection survives 

In food rich blood the the monsters multiply

31

Around the grains of grit an abscess forms

An abscess filled with awful, burning pain

And from tiny grains of mud are monsters born

Abscess filled with awful burning pain

From tiny grains of mud are monsters born

Abscess after abscess and pain insane

She stabs them with penknives to make them drain

With nausea and fever the sickness grows

And still we will inject that shit again

The lizards chew her flesh, so sure, so slow

Until her body’s defenses start to go

32

With swollen purple limbs and wide, red pits

And numb with shock and broken with the strain

With one leg gone she pitifully limps

The faces like skulls with burning eyes insane

Have carried us away to houses of pain

To monsters that consume our flesh and blood

I feel its sharp claws crawling on my brain

Its eyes are like flame, its mouth drips poisoned mud

Like drops of rain in the warm, setting sun

33

As I awoke at the last light of day

Beneath the orange clouds the sun’s light shone

And brightly shining, sparkled in the rain

The sky was bathed in its soft, orange glow

And down below, the orange river flowed

As far away the streetlights faintly gleamed

I heard the big, black barges go loud and slow

The crows all cawed and the seagulls all screamed

Like flying monsters screaming in my dreams

Then the seagulls and crows all changed to lizards

And flew to the dark castle of the wizard

 

Posted by aaronplaat

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