about mark flanigan
Cincinnati native Mark Flanigan has been writing and performing for over 14 years....Works from his collections Wrong-Way Poems For One-Way Streets, Not Necessarily God Stories and Next to Nothing have appeared in a variety of independent publications and, along with his performances, have garnered critical acclaim. He has also co-written a screenplay (“Midway,” with Brian Keizer), edited a literary publication (omnibscure) and worked to develop, produce and curate various gallery shows and performance readings -- notably, VOLK/c.s.p.i. and Intermedia Series readings at the Contemporary Arts Center and the Weston art gallery. Flanigan’s monthly column, “Exiled on Main Street,” appeared for over three years, first in x-ray, and upon his resignation there, at semantikon.com. Performances of his can be found on “the Volk/c.s.p.i. spoken word series CD (2001),” which he co-produced, and on the CD “One Night Only" (2002).   To learn more about his work, read his blog, review some of the works mentioned above, and listen to additional audio tracks:

For More Visit markflanigan.com
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mark flanigan exiled from archives

Dec 2008: This Film is Not Yet Rated

Feb 2008: The Salmon Dance
Jan. 2008: A Greater Force
Dec. 2007: And Sometimes It Just Happens
Nov. 2007: Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Happen
October 2007: The Dance
June 2007: Cake
May 2007: Special Edition "Light Travel" mark Flanigan and Steve Proctor
April 2007: Zero Hour
March 2007: Prelude to a Kiss-Off
Jan 2006: State Of The Disunion Address 
Nov 2006: Youngblood
Oct 2006: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
exiled on main street archives

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January 2009: Self Portrait (Out of the Emptiness)
Author’s Note: The following piece incorporates lyrics from the song “Blue Chicago Moon” by Songs: Ohia from the Album Didn't It Rain.

            out of the ruins
            blood grown heavy from his past
            his wings stripped by thunder
            but those storms keep coming back

            I make myself look in the mirror.  Immediately I am reminded of a scene from my youth: I’m watching MTV at my mother’s condominium.  She’s on the couch with an Old Grand-Dad and rocks in one hand and a cigarette in the other.  A Rolling Stone video has come on and I remark how old and strange Mick Jagger looks to my fourteen-year old eyes.  She states sadly, “You don’t understand, he’s had a hard life.”
            I remember being puzzled.  “What the hell was so rough about being rich and dating Jerry Hall?” I thought.
            This would become a stock answer from my mom whenever I criticized some forlorn celebrity from the easy chair of my youth, one that I would indeed (predictably enough) later understand more fully.  Like now, for instance, as I stare at myself in the mirror, just days away from my thirty-eighth birthday:  
            singing birds in sickness
            sing the same blues song
            when they fell out of the emptiness
            they must have brought along
            space’s loneliness
           
             Some of it is still there: The droopy, blue eyes pushed too closely together, a shade duller perhaps than they once were.  The long, awkward forehead once pointed out by my stepmother Marsha, a moment that would prompt me—then as now—to grow my bangs long, which in turn caused me to wear hats often—again, then as now.  Silly silent-era style eyebrows with antennae that, against my will, occasionally pick up AM radio stations.  Nondescript lips and a nose that every cute girl and annoying frat-boy at the bar would quickly recognize, to my continued dismay, as Kevin Bacon’s.  Over the years, I tried to destroy that nose, tried to make it more akin to someone like Stevie Nicks. 
            But for my hard work, all I inherited instead were the experience lines on my forehead.  The deep, concave expression lines around my mouth worthy of Fred Flintstone or Yogi Bear.  Crow’s feet that look more like cat paws that long ago pranced through wet concrete.   A moll that recently just popped up on the right side of my face for (hopefully) no apparent reason.  And a goat-tee that arrived shortly after seeing Down by Law and never left.  Actually, it did leave once, but took my chin with it so I hastily wooed it back.  I mean, what happened to my chin?  Where did it go?
            And of course, there is the acne.  I’ve always had acne.  Hell, I remember being in eighth grade, standing in front of a different mirror teary-eyed and in a depressed state over my first little red bump, certain I would die a virgin if something wasn’t done about it.  Thus, I implored my dad to bring me some Oxy 10 from the grocery store.  He returned with isopropyl alcohol instead, saying it was much cheaper and, according to Mrs. Budde our next-door neighbor who owned a beauty salon, worked just as well.    Looking back, I’m surprised that when it came time for me to wear deodorant my father just didn’t take me out back and shoot me. 
            However, the older I get, the more I like my acne.  It makes me feel young.  Still, after years of it, my pores are open, my skin marked with its remnants.  To make matters worse, while living in San Francisco I came across an article about a research team that linked the use of benzoyl peroxide with cancer.  Now keep in mind I had been using this product for a good eight years at this point.  More importantly perhaps, you should also know I tended to ingest a line or two—rarely more—of crystal meth most days.  I liked it, it was cheaper and more prevalent than food there, and it sure the hell made essay tests easier.  Before any such test, I would duck into the bathroom at San Francisco State and snort a line.  Once the questions were handed out I would inevitably fill out two blue books worth of answers in a half-hour’s time, handing them in and walking out the class confident I did well while leaving my classmates behind sweating frantically.  “Suckers,” I’d say under my breath as I closed the door behind me.
            (Strictly as an aside, I can’t quite fathom how people can call the current status of crystal meth an epidemic.  If it was, don’t you think I would have been able to find it at least once in the last five years?  I’ve hung out in warehouses, gay clubs, online connoisseur chat- rooms, all to no avail.  Meanwhile, The Cincinnati Enquirer warns me my next-door neighbor is surreptitiously at work on a new batch even as we speak.  I don’t get it, don’t people understand there are only twenty-four hours in a day and we should be awake every one of them?)
            Anyhow, despite my distaste for rest of any kind, I was nonetheless a vegan at this point.  Don’t ask me how, but being a vegan drug-addict made sense then.  So when I read the aforementioned article, my decision was simple: No more benzoyl peroxide.  Well, you can imagine what a mistake that was.  Witch-hazel as a cure for acne is nonsense, I can tell you that much.  Proof is my photo I.D. from the check cashing place which has my face more a relief map than anything, and the write-up I got from the Kabuki Hot Springs—the bathhouse where I worked—wherein I was reprimanded for my appearance.  Specifically, my acne.  
            And so, their memory lives on in the pasty red splotches and the golf-course divots that co-exist alongside my two scars.  Oh yeah, my scars.  I suppose I have yet to mention those.  I almost didn’t see them; they become such a part of you.  However, there they are. 
            Scars, like relationships, are there for one purpose: to humble.  That, and to remind....
            I had recently moved from California back to Cincinnati.  I had brought some meth with me but it was long gone.  Luckily, I knew a guy that wanted to try it, so I had some sent in the mail to his address.  Even more luckily, once it arrived, this guy—who incidentally is now deceased from an overdose—was so spooked by the idea that he was being followed that he damn near paid me to take it off his hands. 
            At the time, I was working a strange, sometimes horrible job, one that in warehouse parlance is called lumping.  Basically, it’s when you unload trucks full of freight by hand and palletize them in the process.  It could be grueling work, each truck having over 40,000 pounds on them, and sometimes you might have to do three in one day.  Still, it paid well and allowed me the time and freedom—theoretically anyway—to attend college. 
            Add to this stew something of a high-maintenance girlfriend, and you might understand my exhaustion (if not my need for speed) at this particular juncture.
            Now Heidi, my girlfriend at the time, had this cat.  Despite never having one myself, I nonetheless have a way with most cats.  It’s because I understand that, like some women, cats simply like it rough.  When you’re petting them, I mean.  Anyway, I think this cat’s name was Frida, after Frida Kahlo.  And I loved this particular cat for no other reason than most mornings it would do the strangest thing by crawling on my back and massaging me with its paws.  It was wonderful, magical, a much-needed tonic.  We had an understanding, this cat and I, and generally, I kept my part of the bargain.
            Yet, this particular night I couldn’t so much as keep my eyes open.  I was on my side facing the window.  It was early morning and I had to be at work at my usual time: 4 a.m.  Frida, however, had other ideas.  She was perched on the window ledge mewing uncontrollably for my attention, but I didn’t have it in me.  “I’m sorry,” I tried to explain.  The mewing was such that you would have thought she was being raped, reached a feverish pitch, and then suddenly ceased.  I closed my eyes finally when, bam, she swatted at my face.  I jumped up—blood was pouring down my nose—and I threw my pillow at the trail of her as she hissed and scampered out of the bedroom.
            “JESUS!” Heidi yelled.  “That’s just like you!” she said, disgusted, then got up to look after her cat. 
            I was humbled, I remember:
            he’s gotten so good at hiding it
            even he does not admit it
            that glittering flash in his eyes
            makes it look like he might be all right
           
            My other scar, right there above my left eye, is much fresher.  My good friends Joe and Deb were getting married, and they were gracious enough to ask me to be an usher.  Earlier that week I had purchased my first new suit, and procured—what was then anyway—a rare salon haircut.  This was a big deal; I was going all out. 
            Cut to the night before the wedding.  I’m not sure what it is, but I think things simply get weird with your girlfriend when it’s time for mutual friends to walk down the aisle.  There’s a sudden pressure to keep pace, or to not be left behind, reminiscent of all those Woody Allen movies where one couple splits and the rest follow suit, but this works in reverse.  Anyway, when things aren’t going well at home, I tend to avoid it.  Which led to a long day of strip clubs and bar hopping, the home stretch being the one closest to there: Milton’s.  The wedding party breaking up, I soon found myself at an acquaintance’s house—actually my old editor’s place just up the street from me, one he had long ago vacated.  There I smoked some pot and wondered if my girlfriend Kate was ever going to talk to me again.
            Once the pot started to warp my ability to suffer inane conversation, I had to leave.  I started walking down the hill to my house.  And I kept walking.  After awhile, I started back up the hill.   Then I walked back down.  Not sure how, but I simply could not find my house.  I must have stayed away so long I forgot what it looked like.  Or perhaps she was so upset with me she had it removed in my absence?
            In any event, our place spans two streets, has two entrances.  For whatever reason—maybe I sensed that something would trigger my memory there—I decided to try the other street, which precluded that I walk up a monstrous flight of stone steps.  Halfway up them, my cell rang.  It was Kate!  I couldn’t answer it fast enough and, as I tried, I stumbled and hit my eye on the edge of one of the steps.
            “It’s five in the morning!  Where are you?” she asked. 
            “I don’t know!” I bellowed, feeling blood rushing down the side of my face.  “All I know is I’m bleeding,” I cried.
            Somewhat more sober all of a sudden, I dialed in my house.  Once inside, I ran to the mirror.  “Is it bad?” I asked, as if I was blind.  Which maybe I was—in one eye anyway—as there was a big nasty gash above my left eyebrow and my sight I noticed lacked focus.  Kate answered by not answering, so I started crying again.  “What am I goin’ to do?  I have to be an usher in four hours!  I just bought a suit and a hundred dollar haircut, and now I’m goin’ to look like this?  It’s not fair!”
            I was panicking, shaking.  Despondent at the fact that I couldn’t hold it together enough to be a presentable usher on the day of my good friends’ wedding. 
            Our differences relegated to the backburner by necessity, Kate tenderly tried to clean the wound and apply liquid skin.  Soon, I fretted myself to sleep and, in the morning, merely thanked Marsha my stepmother for both the bangs and the hat.  Sure, I was a bit self-conscious about looking like the keyboard player from Kajagoogoo at the wedding, but by the reception I was showing everyone my wound and telling them that my girlfriend had beat me....
            However, I was humbled, and I remember:
            if the blues are your hunter
            you will come face to face
            with that darkness and desolation
            and the endless, endless depression....

            And I realize now that I am still standing in front of that very same mirror, this cognizance causing my memories of my friends to fade while behind me the specter of my mother—all eighty-something pounds of her, her face as thin as a corpse’s—appears over my shoulder.  Standing there, she sees me pawing at the imperfections of my face and she seems embarrassed for me.  She reacts by smiling, by putting her hand on my shoulder and looking into the camera.  “Don’t mind us,” she grins, “We’ve had a hard life.  We’ve had a
hard life, too,” she says.