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:

Visit markflanigan.com

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mark flanigan exiled from archives

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 2007: 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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April 2007: Zero Hour
    
INTRO
     I’ve been doing it for twelve years now, a third of my life. And while I was always aware that one day I would have to give it up, most nights saying “Tomorrow,” nonetheless I just didn’t know the day would arrive so soon.
     Last night I had my last of it and walked upstairs singing “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” like I’ve done many times before. This time it must go. And stay gone. Well, at least for the next twelve years, I tell myself.
     You’ll never succeed, someone or something says, not with an attitude like that.
     So I take a deep breath, try to anyway. I remind myself that anymore my penis may as well be collecting social security. I’m bloated from all the toxins, and there’s a subtle rash all around my face and neck. Walking up a flight of steps, I find myself winded, feel twice my age. Ditto when I look in the mirror.
mark flanigan minute poems
Semantikon.com Exclusive Mark Flanigan e-book: Minute Poems with Artwork by Alan Sauer
{290KB PDF}

   At night I can’t fall asleep, while in the morning I’m slow to wake up. The whole situation makes me irritable, I’m tired of the dialogue: I gotta quit/I can’t quit/I’m gonna quit/I didn’t quit/I gotta quit.... Others are tired of hearing me, and I don’t blame them one bit. I must change my tune for them, for you, for me.
     Besides, look at all the money I wasted. All that time, on both ends: up front and on credit.
     I gotta quit. I have quit, just as I’ve finally decided my future lies/Beyond the yellow brick road....

 HOUR ONE
     I came home from school one day to find my mother tied to a kitchen chair.
     She weighed less than a hundred pounds and drank 120-proof Old Grand Dad on the rocks. Every night she would lay on the couch in the front room, literally wailing in pain. She would stop on occasion and suddenly speak plainly as if hosting a roundtable of ghosts. Every so often you might hear her walk into the kitchen, open the freezer door, give the tray a good twist, then plunk plink clunk the sound of the cubes hitting glass. I would count from my bed how many times I heard that throughout the night.
      I wouldn’t be hearing it that night, though. My aunt was in town. She was going to dry her out at the house. In the kitchen.
      The next day I went to class. I was in the seventh grade; I’m sitting there at my desk thinking, my mom’s at home tied to a chair. I looked around the room and wondered if any of the other kids could say the same. I had no way of knowing, nor was I about to ask.
     Anyhow, I was protected from most of the ugliness, at least as much as possible in a two-bedroom apartment. All I can say is that when I finally got around to seeing The Exorcist, I instinctively turned it off at one point because of what it reminded me of.
     Soon enough, things got bad enough for me to be sent to my dad’s. I remember on the ride over seeing a billboard for some type of whiskey, and I remember thinking to myself: someday I’m going to become President, and the first thing I’m going to do is outlaw that stuff. I mean, somebody tell me, how could one justify the sale of something that causes so much pain and sadness?
     Problem was, of course, I couldn’t even vote then. And by the time I was able to, I certainly wouldn’t have voted for myself. Not on that platform. Now, years later, I understand a few things I didn’t then; namely, why they sell such wares, and what happens when you buy them too often.
     
HOUR THREE
     I feel alright, all things considered. I definitely can breathe easier, that much is sure. The downside is that my mind isn’t as sharp as usual. I have a tendency to just sit and wait for a word to come to me instead of grabbing it; while the remainder of my time is spent staring off into space while thinking about nothing. It’s a bit reminiscent of smoking an opiate, but I’m not smoking an opiate.... Am I?
     See what I mean?
     In any event, for once I refuse to suffer bodily for a piece. I have to find out if can do this thing without killing myself so quickly. Let the piece suffer for once!
     For once? What did you mean by that?
     Anyhow, as I was saying, this isn’t the first time I’ve quit. I’ve logged weeks before. Problem always was when my deadlines hit. I was never able to find a way to turn that particular corner, to find or sustain enough focus or momentum to ante up adequately. I couldn’t write a lick.
     The strange thing was how easily it came once I allowed myself to indulge.
     And now, re-reading what I have written thus far, I can’t help but think I should start this piece tomorrow. That intro up there, I realize, should have been written while I was still doing it, while my brain was firing on the beat I told it to. Really, how could I have missed such a thing?
     Hey, why wait until tomorrow? Couldn’t you just buy some and throw the rest away?
     Good point, bastard. Just a little, just enough to properly capture the introduction. Sure.
     Yep, the same dialogue twelve years running. Well, not twelve years exactly. There were some good years in the beginning; we shouldn’t lose sight of that fact. If we were to be honest, I’d estimate it served me decently the first half, if not longer. Hell, let’s go get a few.
     You can see for yourself just how tiresome such a thing might get: Ohhh, I wish I had a little, just a little, a tiny bit, or a bit more self-control.... I’d be satisfied, then.

ZERO HOUR REPRISE
     Having somehow justified it to myself under the pretense that I was nothing short of a method writer, I figured I should probably get the good kind. This would necessitate a short drive to Clifton.
     It was early afternoon; the streets were crowded and a bit wet. I was quickly reminded of one Mid-West phenomenon: A light mist can cause more havoc than a blizzard.
     Once I had it, I decided to wait until I got home. So I could take notes, of course.
On the way there, the rain picked up a bit. Traffic was slow, so I took a detour downtown towards the Parkway, where it wasn’t much better.
     For Christ’s sake, I thought to myself, for that’s as close to a complete thought I was capable of. What bullshit, I sat there at a light, looking across the way at two rows of cars. All the windshield wipers seemed to be swaying in unison except for one joker whose were wired to start in the middle and then spread apart outward. Not sure why, but this drove me nuts. I wanted to strangle the guy as my own wipers went swish wish swish wish swish wish swish wish....
     Finally, the light turned green. I drove one block before I saw red again. This time I was in the left turn lane at a busy intersection. It was one of those where you had to be ready, for when you got the arrow it didn’t last very long, only a fraction of what it took you to wait for all the others.
     There was a yellow school bus in front of me. The kids in there with pigtails and dirty faces waved spasmodically, trying to engage me. I wasn’t having it. After an eternity of such animated silliness, the bus moved, turning left and revealing as it did the fact that the light was already red. “Goddamn school kids!” I yelled at the bus, shaking my fist at it. “Motherfuckers!”
     Sitting through the entire cycle again, I nearly cried.
     But it was all worth it once home. For there it is: fire! That familiar rush of blood to the head, all that unleashed sugar coursing throughout my body. Oh yeah, I hold the pen with my shaking hand.
     But there is nothing left to say. Even less to do. I’m satisfied, deeply. And at such a small price. Suddenly, I forgive the school bus, the errant windshield wiper.
     You pick it up, it
     puts you down,
               nighty-night
     
     And everything in my world is right.
     Everything in my world is alright....

ZERO HOUR –20
     The funny part is, last month, when sitting down to do my piece, I pretty much did the same damn thing. And the month before that. And the month preceding that. So on and so on....

HOUR ONE REVISITED
     Days later now, I’m starting from scratch. I feel the weight of my heroes as I do. They would most probably laugh at my struggle, if they most definitely weren’t dead.

HOUR THREE REVISITED
     I sit in silence. I don’t wanna write about quitting, I whine, not while I’m doing it! It seemed like a good idea, but it’s logic such as this that shouldn’t quite pass for logic.
     All the same, no matter what I do now I win: I become something I’ve worked my entire life to be, the tortured artist!
     If I succeed, I’m in pain. If I fail, I’m still on the rack. I realize I’ve reached a true milestone!
     Way I see it, I’m least likely to fail if I put it in writing.

HOUR FOUR
     Four and a half hours into it now. I’m not sure how much more of this I can take. I can’t focus; I keep gorging myself with celery sticks instead of the other kind.
     Anyhow, yeah, this is what we gotta do, just write. Albeit more constructively. I mean I’m starting to feel better from just typing. I just gotta mke it to my next feeding. Not sure why I can’t spell right now. Can’t seem to figure it out. Maybe in too big a rush. No, probably not. I’m letting this one marinate. ‘Cause I can’t thing. Can’t peck. Can’t nuke. Can’t pope. Can’t noke. Can’t neke. Can’t can’t can’t....
     This the freshest donut you’ll ever eat from me, the one that says I’m okay a bit spacey a little skip tracey trying to get my breath back not to have a heart attack don’t look jacky k not just now when did I get so phat anyhow?
     Wow....

DAY TWO
     I’ve now gone forty hours plus without. I’m remarkably calm, considering that I haven’t truly worked on my piece at all and I absolutely have to hand it in today. It’s because I don’t really care about anything right now. That, and I’m having a hard time focusing on any one thing for any length of time. For instance, I just finished educating myself about the career of Elton John, for some reason. Did you know that in the early 70’s he had no less than sixteen Top 20 hits in a row? That his popularity waned in part once he revealed his bisexuality? That he also battled both cocaine and alcohol addictions?
     In a word, I’ve been lobotomized.
     Most of the day was spent trying to remember what it was I was doing, or trying to do. While the remainder found me yelling, “Shut the fuck up!” at my poor bird, whose new trick is to make his chirping sound like nails on a chalkboard, or “Motherfucker!” at no one in particular. It’s warm here now, so the windows are open. My neighbors must think I’ve officially lost my mind, but I don’t care. I walk by my aquarium and scream, “You godddamnsunavabitchencocksuckers, I swear I’ll kill you if you so much as look at me sideways! Fuckers!”
     They say the third day is the hardest. Surprisingly enough, we’ll see this time. I’d like to think I don’t need the chair; however, I may need a reprieve on that second draft.