“Word Riot,” by Gerard Sarnat

Mar 20th, 2008 | By | Category: Poetry

Alone but not lonely
yet plainly the only
attendee older than
forty, fifty … or sixty,
and aside from the
three pimply groupies
with rainbow rubber
banded braces
in front row middle seats –
likely the sole being
with no lip, nose,
or eyebrow piercings;

or total body tattoos
showing everywhere
there’d been bare skin;
or big bad clodhoppers;

or high-healed black boots –
I tried not to stand out
too much by standing to
clap in the hip Hollywood

SRO bookstore, when the
crowd rose in unison
as if we were in a
stadium or concert hall

to cheer the speakers
who in reality were
rock ‘n roll stars from
the ’80’s band Primus and

Guided by Voices, here
gone literary to pitch
their debut novels, which
judging by what was

read outloud batted five
hundred, the first excellent
– funny, interesting,
universally appealing –

except for too many
fart, piss, shit and zit
jokes and references
to all manner of drugs

entering the body by
every conceivable route
and cavity – while the
second struck out, no

doubt, no way Artificial
Light would’ve ever
landed a publisher
if Z were not a

CD-selling celeb
though in all honesty
I’d never heard of either
pop group before.

Both men (actually
one was just a boy)
dwelt obsessively
on death, which each

obviously felt was
both very cool
to write about and
very cool of Kurt

to have done, but
something that was
not on the horizon
for themselves.

It was an extremely
hot night in Los Angeles
with the electric grid
gone out earlier that

afternoon (Greek lunch
in the chic Larchmont
District), so no one was
all that surprised

when halfway through
the questions and answers
session (by far the cutest
girl in the middle front row

breathlessly asked X
where he’d found such
a beautiful shirt and
what his necklace meant?)

the A/C went down and
it got awfully warm as
a Skylight clerk tried
to made light of it until

presto, the owner emerged
with candles that he
lit to make it less dark
and even a bit romantic,

imploring the audience
to take care since his
precious hardbacks were
extremely flammable.

Some of the less happy
campers decided to
pass on the rest of the
evening — it’s still not

certain exactly what
happened to the three
teeny boppers that
made them scream –

and rushed the exit,
which they soon
found was locked,
requiring the power

to go on before the door’d
open –or at least that’s
what the management
claimed, although a

woman who said she
was a safety technician
shouted out that was
a pure ruse (b*** s***)

used to assure that
nobody sneaked out
without paying for
merchandise, since

the normal security
system’s invisible
eye device obviously
was on the fritz.

To make a long story
short, after the riot (really
no big deal, just a few
muscle-shirted goateed

guys in fedoras throwing
chairs ’til the storefront
window broke), the folks
who stayed had the time

of our lives, all for
one and one for all,
swaying alongside
the sexy rockers who

by now’d pulled their
acoustic guitars from
the cases, preparing
to strum old favorites,

and we whooped out
almost a play list from
Bill Graham’s Winterland
days, and I sang right along…

“Rat in a drain ditch,
caught on a limb, you
know better but I know
him. Like I told you,
what I said, steal your
face right off your head…”

til the juice came
back on, and all the gang

remaining there hugged,
leaving at least one geezer
Deadhead and another
Jerry may he RIP, ecstatic.


Gerard Sarnat splits time between his San Francisco Bay Area forest home and Southern California’s beaches, where he and his wife care for their first grandson. Gerry is a father of three, physician to the disenfranchised, past CEO and Stanford professor, and virginal writer ’til the recent tender age of sixty-two. He has been published or is forthcoming in EZAAPP, The Hiss Quarterly, Pens on Fire, Poets Against War, Thieves Jargon, Underground Voices, Flutter, Jack, Atavar, Wilderness House Review, Aha!Poetry, Spindle, Black Zinnias,The Furnace Review, and Stonetable Review among others. “Just Like the Jones’,” about his experience caring for Jonestown survivors, was solicited by The Jonestown Annual Report and will appear later this year. Gerry is currently working on an epic prose poem, “The Homeless Chronicles.” He has been accepted into a four person writers’ cooperative by The California Institute of Arts and Letters; Pessoa Press plans to publish his first book.

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