April 14-20, 1997: Ben Ohmart and Opus23

Week of Apr 14-Apr 20

Ben Ohmart and Opus23

Ben Ohmart



BEN OHMART, a New York based poet, playwright and composer, has written for the stage, television and film Most recent stage works include Ooglesnort Part II, a Pythonesque revue; Caliban, an absurdist reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest; Daughters of Rage, a ballet based on Garcia Lorca’s play, The House of Bernarda Alba and commissioned by the Dance Department at Florida State University; Henry, an opera about William Rufus, William the Conqueror’s son; Two Panic Plays, a translation and adaptation of two plays by Fernando Arrabal, performed at Syracuse Stage After Hours; and The Friendship Play, commissioned by the Groves International Committee on Friendship and the Family The Tell-Tale Heart, an opera based on the Edgar Alan Poe short story, was commissioned by WFSU television and scores for Stonewall: Old Blue Light and Jesse: The Jesse James Musical were commissioned by Theatre West Virginia and the University of Mississippi, respectively A finalist in America’s Best Comedy Script competition, Ben is a professional “gag” writer with several published and performed routines to his credit, as well as many poems and stories published in journals across the country, including A Madman’s Dream, Black Bear Review, Interbang, 13 Magazine, Reflections, X-Ray Magazine, On the Road, Artisan, Alternative Press Magazine, Reptiles of the Mind, D.C.C.R , Transcendence, Sparks, Planet Chaos, Zap Inc , The Wicked, Sink Full of Dishes, Buddagus, Parthenogenesis, Skidfish, The Arm’s Extent, Furry Chiclets, Holy Temple of Mass Consumption!, Mongoloid Moose, The Subterranean, Farm Pulp, Frayed, Children Churches and Daddies, Gortday Review, Kaspahraster, Vox, Suffusion, 10 Things Jesus Wants You To Know, Feh! and The Iconoclast His translations in collaboration with John Franceschina of the plays of the Marquis de Sade are published by Hollowbrook, and his musical adaptation of The Jungle Book was recently toured by Syracuse Stage He is currently writing films for Greenstone Productions, and his plays will be performed in Canada, Minnesota and Australia this year.

The following work is Copyright © 1997 and owned by Ben Ohmart and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatsover without written permission from the author.

Mother’s Cupboard

We had nothing But there was always something around Had cat, dog, but I was always walking them
to the trashcan, like on a leash It wasn’t our trashcan I carried the cat We plugged the tv in and that’s what we got We talked We had fewer choices
We thought we were miserable
and now I know how happy we were
now my co gives me the bi-year London travel log
I can afford IRA to kick me off the tube every then and now
call up the folks in FL, get the answering machine for Christmas
where the hell are they?
take my son to the television for the Braves, do you know
how long it takes to get through to the stadium?
dual fax line because my wife has a hefty mail order business
we exchange Easter kisses and bought two cars with cash
the other nucleus of us has zits now, she’s complaining
about the drops and the medicated pads that screw her
with their guarantees, I’m always picking the wrong shoes
for her, now my other kid is turning off the saying no to drugs
commercials and I look through his room when he catches me
there’s this fine fight about trust, he walks out and
into an accident with his friend, it’s all right
but it makes you think
and it bites him bitter

What I want is the good hot dog, don’t
tell me it’s all natural, don’t
say it’s out of chicken breast, I don’t
care, I don’t want
to know I want a nickel call
I’d like the computer to be that huge inaccessible space waste
they broke the window in my car
stole everything that goes into the cigarette lighter
I still have my health, I still love my wife when we talk
there’s going to be a cable channel for everything soon
just think
If I can wait

Bitch Means Dog, Idiot

we were hanging by our thumbs
over the 1st St bridge
with our pockets turned out
we wore black scorpian caps
and had midget thermoses of brandy
and Coke and salt in our in-jacket pockets
I always felt sorry for Jerry because he repeated
everything his father said about that bitch
and he had no shit-detector inside to know
when it turn it off, when to turn it up
he was always getting beaten with uncovered books
clawed with painted nails
kicked with heavy black books
while the other of us were getting laid
whenever there was a fart around, Jerry got
the blame, and he looked horse shit sad
it was sad when it came from endlessly
beautiful women

but I tolerated because you really Can’t choose your friends
there are only so many, the rest are anti-Christ sirens
he was five feet of me, brown hair that parted like ’78
I couldn’t tell you his eyes, his features, he was a Mickey Dolenz voice
with the cult attitude for washing paper plates, sleeping with puppies
he was my best friend, he had others, I didn’t, I didn’t care

once we in a music store, looking at the sheet music
looking like we knew what we were reading
humming or, when the True babes got close enough,
guitaring like a wish this was an instrument place
it never worked, but hot stuff didn’t walk past the keyboard places
we learned a certain set of chords a progression that didn’t
get very far, but we always had it ready, practiced it enough
so that it sounded just enough like around 8 or so songs out there

this was back when the drum sticks were on the skins
a man walked over and told you to try it out
there were some, but none in Chicino, PA, that held rooms
you could go in and get away from everything
was in there
I could imagine
I did imagine
it was what I did

but usually if we ever got far, it was in Musicland
and then Jerry would try to be cool, a dead killer,
and start off again about what he’d heard
and we get mean looks as if I said anything
even when I didn’t agree
and he was still my friend
even though I loved them
the way they walked
what they were
ready to love
just a day, a life, hoping for someone to be with
who wasn’t Jerry
who didn’t know like Nazis

I still get a Christmas card from Jerry
but it’s supposed to be from the whole family
wife, two kids, even snake, but I don’t know what kind
they’re huddled like prize animals for color coupons
into a space that looks painful
while I’m still alone
wondering what I did wrong
I’m thinking about the progression that’s just too fine
slips and turns and rolls on its mooning side calorie by inch
I heard the abusive language
the utter description in the construction of his words
I knew his first date, he told what hadn’t happened
a compulsive talker
one who can’t talk when he’s asking to listen
his father lived again
out of that grave that was always flower bare and stiffled in the sun

bald, less teeth than you’d think
there were dreams about hanging by our thumbs
as we watched the waters rush
ducks into circles and talked about copying
whatever homework we might’ve been good at
he would wear plaid and it scared people
I’d tell Jerry what the New Teen Titans were doing

now not even the dreams want to go out


I don’t think you know him
Drugged dogs and watched them spin?
Cloth cap stripped as it was wide,
one of the golfer’s sort
Kept a full supply of mink women
in the winter
just in case he got ’em thirsty

I heard tell
how’s he was always catching hell
with a web finger glove
scratching the patches on his comfort pants
and always had a prayer before passing the gravy boat

He was 15 when he was born
and born again dead at 32

You have to start him off
on that last day, when


He got in the car as it was passing him up
There was always a stopsign in town
sometimes they were too embarrassed to
say no thank you
His smell scared the little dog of the
wrinkle driving, she had on a proper jumpsuit
from church, and music without the words
came from the speaker that didn’t
have the wind knocked out from that window
It was teasing WW’s hair like breaking glass
and he called on her to fix it up a crank

She was hostile and feeling on the side
of taken over, she stood it like she had no hearing
The man in back with snap shoes and fly breath
and purple majesty and beads for eyes and cow patience
and a piece of silver tubing so he’d always have an inch
of reflection in these long matters of waiting up for life,
he shouted

The dog barked out the window
old lady slowed to a jump and made it
just this way of an orange juice truck
and he was dead
You never start at funerals
I don’t remember what I said anyway
I wrote them all out on my white cuff
and the thing was as rented as all get out



Opus23 is a drunk, and even has a hangover while writing this sentence
He also writes when the shakes let up.

The following work is Copyright © 1997 and owned by Opus23 and may not be distributed or reprinted in any manner whatsover without written permission from the author


Call all your angels mom
calls all those Saints and Virgins
that where painted on those candles
you would light
to remind God
you where still alive

Call God himself mom
tell him Charlie B died
and I’m drinking with young girls
with sad eyes

Call all your angels mom
and tell them to
bring the candles this time
it’s getting dark around here


This old woman came into my store
and started looking over the aisles
I was reading a copy of the Weekly
I hate old people
especially old women
bitter and resentful examples of humanity

She looked around for awhile
then came up to the counter
with nothing in her basket
I expected to hear her complain
about the produce
or about how we’re out of
what ever it is that she wanted

She made small talk
about the weather
and how her neighbor’s condo
flooded during the last storm
I smiled and nodded politely
while she told me how all this rain
and cold weather was getting her down
even the bright sun today didn’t cheer her up

She had thought about moving to Phoenix
where her son and wife live
but it’s to hot there she said
I sneered inside at her never being satisfied

Then she said
that she had hoped that taking a walk
and talking to some one
would make her feel human again
then she said thanks
and left


Starring out at a tragic past
tracing morals on fading paper
that blows away
like old and tired leaves
get on your knees
and pray for angels
little cherub creatures
we can toss to the dogs
and watch them
be torn apart
like casting dice
or reading tea leaves
the stains of their entrails
will tell us our future
and we’ll interpret it
to tell a story
that we want to hear
like any oracle
it’s only good
once it’s dead

The Old Waiting Game

It is a long cold winter
starring out
to clouded sky
wonder what color black holes
really are

Do they hold
all the candy colored memories
old men don’t have anymore

The color of Mardi Gra beads
strung around the necks
of dancing De-JA voodoo queens
casting spells
of drunken mid-night stabbings
on a bourbon stained street
with her Evil Eye

Dancing around with chickens’ feet
and a Chango bracelet
leaving Havana cigars
and a half pint of dark rum
and little toys stolen
with blessed trickery
of his high wiliness Ellegua
God of the cross roads

We’ll chant and spit
leave our gifts at the corner
by a street light
with two candles
and a little fear
a little voice that says
what have you done

But I’ve known all my life
since my Mama read me fairy tells
of goats and pigs
and Genies that punish the greedy
I’ve known all my life
from my Mama’s grand wisdom
to be careful of what I wish for
to be thankful for what I get
what I got

But like a monky trap
with your paw stuck
in the candy jar
died of starvation
in front of the feast
would of got you any way
with all that sugar
and corn syrup
partially hydrogenated soy bean oil
it will all rot
more than your crooked damn teeth

But it is there
and smells so beautiful
that confectionists magic
trays of rich dark chocolate
or pulling machines
twisting and tugging
pink salt-water taffy
and even though
your not a child anymore
you are glued
to the store front window

Lost yourself
watching all that sugar
being pulled through the machine
like long strands
of cotton picker back muscles
that should snap
under all that pressure
but they don’t
just like you or me
keep that pressure
to a low boiling point
and wait
for that cold winter sky to part
and let out
that fat old man
summer sun

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