Archive for the Alan Catlin Category

Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on March 9, 2023 by Scot

Young mother

pushing twin
dressed in
tight black
skirt too
boots made
for walking
all over
the names
of lover’s past
scrolled in
ornate black
tattooed to
the inside of
her thighs
good to go
then gone



Her cousin saw

mother in the City
a week before she died.
“You’d never know
She was that close
to passing on. Of course,
she was thin but
then she always was.
Seemed happy and
talked like there
was no tomorrow.
How did she die?”
I told him that
when they opened
her up, after finding
the stomach cancer they
didn’t look any further.
Was enough cancer there
to kill two people.
“Stomach cancer.
That’s supposed to be
painful, isn’t it?
She showed absolutely
no signs of pain.
We went McDonalds’
and she ate like a horse.”
“I expect her dissociative
personality gave the pain
to someone else
What did you do
when she started
talking crazy?
I mean how did you
handle it?”
“I just laughed and
laughed and eventually
the subject changed.”
He was the kind of
guy who made the best
of things. He just dealt
with stuff. He identified
the body for me too.
He was a better man
than I am.



Good Guys with Guns

The dictum: “good guys
with guns” are the be all
and end all of conflicts
involving firearms suggests
a once-upon-a-time,
make believe world,
where the good guys
all wore white hats
and the bad guys all
wore black ones
and a hero like
Hopalong Cassidy
(whoever he was)
would arrive in a dire
moment to save the day like
the cavalry is coming
in a million Western movies.
Ask Custer how that
worked for him.
Ask the school shooting
victims who can still
tell their story.

Alan Catlin Poetry

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on January 17, 2022 by Scot


She was one of those

dressed in black,
fool for love kind of
wannabe poets, burned
out in her twenties,
all of her heroes dead,
like Dylan Thomas, her too,
by drowning, long legged
bait, rings on her bare toes
waiting for a nibble.



Desperate Characters


They hide in the shadows of buildings
brought down to tumultuous ruin,
stand behind DO NOT ENTER signs
as of by being there no one could
see what they really were.
They all claim to be from somewhere
else but their scars betray them as
their clothes do like uniforms worn in
battles between states of mind and body
as the escapees from prison riots
that they are, always on the edge of
desperation and death. Their bodies
are marked with inscriptions, blood
oaths that can never be revoked.
They carry weapons stolen from private
stock, drive war machines super-
charged and well-primed for abductions
and assassinations/ renditions, personal as
blood libel. Their creed is a kind of cult
worship divined from black art bibles,
are coven killers whose turn-the-earth-
black way shows no mercy, draws a shroud
over the sky and tears holes in the fabric
only to let new birds of prey in.
There is so much emptiness inside them,
letting it out creates a vacuum nothing can
survive in. If they tell you a new moon
is full, you believe it. What else can you do?


Close Encounters of a Strange Kind


“You’ve got me hotter than Georgia asphalt.”
Lula Pace

She made high heel, mesh stockinged
love with the lead singers in bands
with names like: “Thick Bastards”,
“Flaming Retards”, “Space Aliens for
Peace.” Showed up for work bruised
and delirious, speaking the new language
no one could recognize, she’d learned
over the long weekend, wondering what
all the fuss over her was about,
“It’s Wednesday. You were supposed
to be at work, as usual, on Monday.”
“I guess I lost track of time.”
“Don’t bother coming back for your
last check. We’ll mail it to you.”
“Be that way.”
And they were, eventually, at every
place she ever worked. When you looked
the way she did: sober, made-up and faking it,
you got hired wherever you applied.
Were even cut some slack as if something
that gorgeous could never be as strung out as
she appeared. Might even be telling the truth
when she called in with a persistent stomach flu
that had sapped all her strength and left
her looking as if she’d spent the last
thirty-six hours sleeping in a snow bank
and had been thawed out by someone using
an acetylene torch. In fact, the closest she’d
been to snow was all those lines she’d been
snorting with the lead singer of Black Friday,
a half-dead, six foot eight, mixed race punk
rocker who called himself Raunch, who
used his uncut-for-years dreds to hang dead
things from, “Like rodents and stuff. I think
we had sex. It was really weird.”
If nothing else, these close encounters of
the strange kind made for entertaining texts.
Half the fun was figuring out who they were
from, what they expected of her, and what
she might do next.

Matador by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on February 12, 2018 by Scot


Three days into a drinking
holiday weekend, shot full of
chemicals, beer and Red Bull,
he’s as hyper as Old Jake,
The Raging Bull himself
before a grudge match.
The whole world is a boxing
ring for him, stocked with men
he imagined his wife was having
it off with. He’s strung tighter
than a taut bale of barbed wire,
a snip away from release,
from turning whatever bar he
happened to end up in into a
killing field full of blunt force
trauma victims: his fists bloodied
and held high in victory for cheering
crowds only he can hear,
compressed eyes pinched
into tiny balls like buck shot
pellets stuck in hardboiled egg
whites, blood drops tattooed at
the corners, vestiges of physical
pains he could no longer endure.

Death’s Door by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on January 30, 2018 by Scot


He is as gaunt as a Camp survivor,
one of Death’s on-the-job recruiters
working the bars for new recruits.
Runs his hand over three months of
chemo hair style, rubs his bloodshot,
watering eyes, says,
“I must look like an Irish trashcan.
That’s how I feel these days.”
Is trying to drink a depth charged
pint of stout, says,
“For the Iron.” But is having
trouble keeping it down.
“Used to be I was a real dresser.
Chaser of ladies both large and small.
Look at me now.” Wears pants
the fit him like a sick elephant’s
skin even with a belt pulled as tight
as it will go and a shirt made for
a man two or three times his size,
says, “What’s the point of buying
new clothes now?”
“Have one on the house.
For the road.”
Kind of smiles, “Sure, why not.
What the hell?

Three Poems by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on January 5, 2018 by Scot

Bloody Murder

Everyday must have
been a practice session
for Halloween costume parties,
traveling Charade games that
were so bizarre, you’d be hard
pressed to guess what it was
he was supposed to be dressed
as. I thought maybe he was
trying to win a Dennis Rodman
in drag lookalike contest, even
if he was about a foot and
half too small, and in need of
some heavy tanning sessions
plus a better hair colorist.
I had to admit I’d never seen
a man wearing that kind of
lipstick, not even in a Fellini
movie, but he either had never
heard of Federico or was
playing dumb, not that
I really cared either way.
I responded to his
suggestion to make him
something good with:
“Anything in particular?”
“Surprise me.”
“The last guy said that ended
up in ER.”
“You’re a really funny guy.”
“I’ve been told that.”
“Ok, big boy, make me what
you made him.”
He looked dubious when
I placed the drink in front
of him sd.”What’s that?”
“A Bloody Murder.”
“What’s in it?”
“Chilled Vodka with Cinnamon Schnapps.”
He made a face but drank it anyway.


Three Amigos

Whatever stag party they
had escaped from must have
ended abruptly by fully armed
intervention. They judiciously
decided to avoid the consequences
of having been there and somehow,
tacitly involved, by crawling in
combat formation under barbed
wire fences as if under live fire
in Basic. Their duds weren’t
exactly ruined, so much as modified,
by stains no dry cleaners on earth
would ever be able to remove.
Coming down from peak adrenaline
high was going to require many
shots of their favorite eponymous
brands: Jack, Johnny and Jose.
A few of those apiece and they’d
break into spontaneous song like
three redneck tenors on tour.



Dusk in Eden

Meth stole her mind and
she stole ID’s. Had unlimited
credit on someone else’s dime
cleaning out whole accounts
and creating new ones from
the ruins of the old, one step
ahead of a credit check and
a fraud alert. Had nine different
valid photo ID’s, forty seven
credit cards and a first full
of debits with PINS she easily
accessed on line after rifling
delivered mail, steaming envelopes
open, copying everything inside
and resealing the pilfered mail.
Using them any halfwit hacker
could manage on their own.
Would still be tweaking the night
away, charging with impunity,
taking cash advances and retuning
merchandise she stole for refunds,
if she hadn’t left her bag in a
Victoria’s Secret changing room
for Security to find with all
her stuff inside.

Three Poems by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on December 3, 2017 by Scot


They’d never seen
anything like her before,
this thin stick of a woman
lying naked on a bare
mattress, scratches on
her body from head to
toe, lying in her own
filth and moaning.
“Turn them off. Please,
just turn them off.”
The paras had no clue
what she was talking about:
no TV, no radio, no VCR,
nada, “Turn what off?”
the senior para wanted to know.
“The radios. 32 Teeth, all
of them receiving, all of them
tuned to different stations.
It’s driving me crazy.”
Yep, it sure would, the rescue
unit thought. Crazier than a
shit house rat. This was one
tweaker wasn’t ever going to
see the light of another day
on the outside.


Semper Fi (motherfucker)

No one took the Marine Fitness
Regimen more seriously than
he did, working out hours each
day: strength and endurance,
speed and quickness, all the good
stuff a perfect body needs.
Sparred three times a week
just for drill. Was asked,
“You ever fight professionally?”
“Strictly amateur stuff but
I like to think I’m good.”
“You mean like Golden Gloves?”
“Nah, that stuff is for pussies.
I’m in the Fight Club.
Was a movie based on a kick ass
book. Ever see it?”
“Yeah, I did. As I recall, it didn’t
end that well for anyone.”
“You don’t join Fight Club
for Happy Endings.”
“No doubt.”
“Lots of guys don’t have a
purpose to their lives once they
get out of the service. That’s
what Fight Club’s for.”
“Everyone should have a
mission in life.”
“Damn straight. I was just a kid
when I joined up and the Marines
made me a man. A lot of guys used
to make fun of me and pick on my
ass. They are one bunch of sorry
assed motherfuckers now.
I’m hunting them down one
by one and taking them out.
You can’t imagine how satisfying
it is to see the looks on their face
when they realize who I am and what
is going to happen next. ”


Florida Rum Runner

There wasn’t much he hadn’t
learned about boats and blondes
by the age of sixteen, though he
was eager to learn anything
he might have missed. Got cut off
from family inner circle after being
busted at Zero Tolerance, 50 grand
a year private school, a week
before graduation for knocking up
a teenaged townie tramp and holding
an ounce of Mexican weed.
A few years of on-the-road, learning
the hard way on the job trades,
he landed a decent bar gig and
met up with old prep school bud
married to local mob don’s gorgeous
only child. Bought a plan for a
big score running cash crop off
The Keys to the states: a few days
of clear sailing, loading shrink
wrapped bales and he was set
for a long happy ever after life.
The perfect fairy tale ending
if you didn’t include DEA agents
riding a coast guard cutter and going
down for a mandatory 30 year Federal
rap. Still it was a better deal than
his roommate got: dead of a sudden
“heart attack” at 34. Or so the official
obit said.

Three Poems by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on October 23, 2017 by Scot

Branch Water

They liked it neat with
Rebel Yell shooter backs,
they said, expecting to get
a laugh.

They usually did.

They had reputations as,
cowboys with a hard on
for the world, that needed
to be upheld.

Fighting was what they
enjoyed most, what they did
best, though they would take
the odd woman if one was

There usually was.

The places they hung out in
always had women who went
for Real Men.

Men who traveled with concealed
weapons, loaded gun racks
and a couple of cases of chilled
Lone Star.

You never knew.

Partying for them was a kind
of religion, was never dull,
was script grist for prime time
TV shows and novels with
named like Midnight Texas
and Living Dead Texas Style.

Swore they had sex with
demons and vampires.

Had the scars to prove it
though the puncture wounds
they were so proud of were
from the business end of a
long handled fork used at
a BBQ gone as wrong as
cookout could

and the scratches on their backs
were from messing with razor
wire fences on walls they had
no good reason to be trying
to scale.

Every roadhouse along a
hundreds of mile flat line
carried Branch or they’d know
the reason why.

Just put a bottle on the bar,
lay out a long row of Yell
and duck.

That wasn’t the name of an
actual drink yet but it would
be soon.


The Drowning Pool

This is how it begins:
a sedan through underbrush
up against a tree, a steaming
radiator, full moon reflected on
a lake, driver’s side door sprung
open, air bag deployed, blood in
the ruts where grass should be

This is how the movie proceeds:
a hand held camera shakily following
path of car downhill as in every horror
movie ever made. Feet cracking dead
sticks as they go. Pant legs scraping
against shrubbery, scattering leaves.
Hands moving obstacles impeding
progress. Rhythmic, labored breathing,
and the sound of a radio not quite tuned
into a station playing what might have
been country and western music in
another life.

The man from the car stumbling toward
the lake. His button down dress shirt
torn at the shoulder, blood splatters
on once white cloth. Trouser legs
ripped to the knee, to the thigh, soiled
from contact with wet forest floor.
An open head wound free flowing
down unnaturally pale face. Eyes
trying to focus on what lies ahead,
conscious of what follows behind.

This is where the stationery camera
focuses on the moon on the water,
establishing a shot contrasting to what
is about to happen on the shoreline-pursuer
making contact with the man from the car.
Thrashing on shore then a splash.
Then another, louder splash and a muffled
voice speaking words that make no sense.
Red bold type letters superimposed on
the once again tranquil scene:
The Drowning Pool. Unrated.
What happens next is up to you.


Locked Outside the Doors of Perception with
The Memphis Blues Again

True sailing is dead.

For the music is your special friend
Dance on fire as it intends
Music is your special friend
Until the end…
–J. Morrison

After hours, outside some forlorn
whiskey bar, some go go club, their
lack of focus suggests one too many
Alabama Slammers for the road,
too many close encounters of the mosh
pit kind, low grade concussions with
a down-the-drain spiral in their eyes.
Their spiked heels and platform shoes
betray them, making walking part of
the impossible dream of their lives.
That dream where they could time
machine transport themselves back
into LA in the Summer of Love
where their only goal in life would
be to gain admittance to whatever
bar The Doors were playing and fuck
The Lizard King senseless. On stage
if necessary: all the unfiltered spot
lights hot and focused, the pot smoke
raw and thick as china white and
plain rot gut neat consumed in the hold
or on the burning deck of a ghost boat
sailing off the charts to nowhere,
moonlight in their eyes, powdered
crystal for brains.


Alan Catlin won the 2017 Slipstream Chapbook Contest with his “movie book” Blue Velvet. Next up in the series, Hollyweird, a chapbook to be published by Night Ballet Press.

Home Schooled by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags on July 8, 2013 by Scot

If life were a short story in search of
an author, he’d be looking for Ray Carver
or one of his many disciples near the bus
stop, pushing aside overgrown weeds,
grass, searching for expired day passes,
ten trip tickets  to sell to the gullible
or the easily intimidated, waiting at Division
Street shelter.  His half-hearted sales
pitch fails to persuade, asks instead,
“Do you know where there’s a pawn shop
nearby?  I know there’s one on this street.”
He might have added, “somewhere”,
on this main thoroughfare that extends
from Albany to Syracuse and points West.
Finally settles on, “You have a buck you can spare?
Loose change?”  Rebuffed, he seems more
discouraged than upset, this neat, middle aged,
overweight black man wearing new sneakers,
fresh clothes, and badly in need of a drink.
“You see I really need a drink.”He says,
almost casually, matter of fact, “If I don’t
have one I get sick. My hands shake,
I throw up, sometimes I even convulse.
Doesn’t matter what it is either: flat beer,
bad wine, anything, man.  Got to have it.
First thing every morning, every day, all day.
It’s awful.  I done the rehabs.  All of them.
None of them took.  My daddy was an alcoholic.
Died young. Wasn’t but 45. I’m 50 now.
Counting my days. You could say I was home
schooled.  My mom left and my daddy didn’t
care about nothing but the booze so that’s what
I learned and I learned it good.”
Who knew if his story was true.  He didn’t smell,
look or act drunk. “You can’t know what it’s
like to need something that bad.”
Actually I could.
I gave him a buck.

Two poems by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin on November 5, 2012 by Scot

Lounge People Listening, Waiting for “The End”

Young America 1970, half wasted
drinking from the keg of perpetual
flowing beer, sacred font open 24 hour
a day, for charter members of Roosevelt
Drive Social Club, duplex of dharma
bums, a month away from graduation
and a letter of greetings and salutations
from Uncle Sam draft board;
black robes and mortar board hats in May,
jungle fatigues by October, flag draped
coffin by the first of the year, full military
honors; it had happened before and it would
happen again.  No one mentioning what lay
ahead, but everyone aware of the elephant
in the crowded living room, the Woodstock
Live album on so loud Jimi Hendrix made
ears bleed the national anthem,  taking you
higher as Sly and the Family Stone and
the hydroponic weed smuggled in from
who knew where, classes some kind of Kent
State nightmare no one bothered with any more.
Interiors so crowded early spring afternoons
relocating all the furniture outside on the lawn
under the high flying drinking flag: a martini
with olives on a cresting wave, seemed the only
way to fly, all the summers of love over,
young ladies on the daybed/couch dressed
in funereal black, white skulls on gold chains
around their necks, dead eyes and too red lips,
all the gone tomorrows, today, that seemed to
say, abandon hope all ye who enter here.



The war never ends on all
those twelve hour shifts in
his mind, humping the night
as if it were a twenty dollar whore
downloaded for action the duration
of a three day pass.
Even stateside, mustered out,
nothing changed him, nothing altered
his focus, selling cash crops from
backdoor saloons, boatloads of pure
and suitcases of dinero, calling all
the shots for every deal that came
down, a posse of dead beat,
human moray eels on steroids
for protection, everywhere he went.
Downtime, clubbing with his crew,
more of a black ops mission than
a special occasion. A date, grabbing
some babe and having her
strong armed into nearest empty
room for an upclose and private
encounter , just her and the boys.
A wad of twenties and some blow
left behind, along with the wreckage
of her life.  No one dared complain.
Not then. Not ever.
No one crossed him on a business
deal either since the rumor started
was , he might pop someone, anyone,
just for drill. What he might do to an
actual offending party, unthinkable.
Out of town connections said he was
malo malo loco, was one tour of duty
and a deal from being lord of the
underground, a few heart beats
from immortal. No reason to change
the perceived, he thought. Not in this
life. Nor in any other.

Four Poems by Alan Catlin

Posted in Alan Catlin with tags , on March 24, 2012 by Scot

Richard Brautigan Trout Fishing in America

Winter leaks from the cracked tar
sealing around the carbon stained brick
chimney forming puddles of sludge and
ash along with the spilled hurricane lamp
oil; opening notes in a cacophonous
symphony of dripping from a neglected
metal roof. The forest at dawn ablaze,
a still life framed by the cracked window
glass of this isolated cabin, flies buzzing
inside ,worrying the remains, meals left
to fester, fishing rods and hunting rifles
unattended, propped up near the barred
from inside door. Invisible fires burn,
stoked in the cold, desolate hearth,
releasing ghosts of smoke burning down
to cold absorbent stone, taking within
the very essence of unnatural heat and light;
the spent pistol shell, crumpled pages from
a manuscript no one will ever read.


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