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“It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleedin’ (An Anthem for a Doomed Youth) by Alan Catlin
'It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleedin' An Anthem for a Doomed Youth
I never fit in. I wasn't cool, I didn't play Sports, none of the fraternities would consider me in a million years and if you weren't in a fraternity or didn't play Sports you were no one. A great big Zero. Girls treated me as if I had a contagious disease or the bubonic plague or both. Until I was sixteen. I lost thirty pounds in six weeks working out all summer, doing football exercises in the incredible humid August mornings and afternoons. the pounds melted off, replaced by muscles. By summer's end I had to drink three San Miguel beers after the afternoon workout just to out back the water weight lost. Drank them at the married woman's house rented from my cousin's family, a property they would rent until they pissed it all away on weekend binges that got longer every weekend through the late sixties until they lost everything they owned and the aunt died way too young. But that's another story.
Afternoons spent at the married woman's. Could it have been my imagination or was she trying to get me drunk, get the cousin drunk, no she didn't really care for him, he was crazy after all, scarred from the fall he took after he knocked up Skinny Ginny and was dropped on his face and beat to a bloody pulp for transgressions upon the person of a way hot girl, fourteen pushing eighteen with a blunt instrument and no one mentioned the stillborn twins she bore months after the fall. No, no one saw much of Ginny either after, no one knows where she went., what she did but one thing for sure, they couldn't afford to put Doug's face back together with plastic surgery either. But the beers were cold and the married woman was saying stop by every day, there's always cold beers here for you, I'll be waiting remember that. And so would her roommate, a petite beautiful fraulein, flat chested, my type but definitely way too old, maybe thirty and not interested in young boys like the San Miguel woman, fat, how old, who knows? Who remembers? Who cares? She had two children, husband always on the road and her eyes roving, roving always, handing me the San Miguel, her fingers lingering on mine as she puts the frosty there. I chug it down and wonder if I'm living some kind of perverse Holden Caulfield nightmare at the end of the earth on Long Island, a Peyton Place revisited and everyone who mattered would know I was lingering here but how else was I going to get those beers, just turning seventeen, mean and lean now, a girlfriend who defied the odds of liking a misfit, more my style, more my age, turning seventeen that year as well, mid sixties of it's alright ma I'm only Bleedin’
And when I was done doing workouts, I was in Pug’s cellar drinking beers, his parent's didn't mind as long as there was no hard stuff involved, at least they knew where we were, hanging out listening to Rubber Soul over and over again, later, cruising the parking area on the docks overlooking the channel, checking out the inevitable rows and rows of parkers, who was doing who, and endless cruising, aimless, boredom, the watchword of the summer from the surfing movie, Endless Summer, our motto, "You really missed it, you should have been here yesterday---"That movie we drove into the city to see, passing the Last Exit to Brooklyn sign we longed to steal, unreachable so far above the concrete viaduct, full speed ahead, damn the traffic, highways, as if we could ever live a last exit to Brooklyn life, having just discovered that you could smoke the grass but not, like Charlie Chaplin's son had so wisely observed, the grass that grew on father's lawn. And we were ready to try anything to relieve the boredom, dressed in our official Bob Dylan Village Rebel outfits, maroon CPO jacket, faded jeans, torn moccasins or boots, our hands thrust deep into our pockets averting people's gazes, looking at the cracks in the sidewalk and appearing lost in some kind of transcendental thought that would probably translate into thinking of ways to get out of paying to do the same things twice years before Dylan had written the “Memphis Blues Again”. But he hadn't. So we had to settle for the revelation of “Blonde on Blonde”, “the sad eyed lady of the lowlands” blowing us away, hey yeah “positively fourth street,”” maggie's farm”, those spanish boots of spanish letter, if we were depressed and I was all the time depressed, this was music to fall into, hands deep in the pockets head full of beer, formative poems, the worst kind of adolescent riffs, attempting to find form on paper as some did and it would take years to get over the songs, the lyrics, the sad eyed poems, maybe a lifetime because time became compressed then accelerated out of control all through the sixties until whole lifetimes were created and expired in millennial highlights of a generation we were only half aware of participating in even as we stood on the sidelines, a Marlboro draped from our lips, Bogarting the filters like Jimmy Deans on a bums rush to the apocalypse in VW bugs instead of corvettes, chewing sunflower seeds in Pug's cellar, Nelson's idea. Nelson who would do anything female, do any drug that stood still long enough to be ingested, or anything that might be a drug, and who years later, after he was busted and forced to make a special choice: six years in a place of poor quality up north with hard assed criminal felon types hungry for hippie ass or three years in the service of your choice in the middle of an escalating war. This was a time of unenlightened marijuana laws and possession of residue could get your ass shit canned for an unbelievable time and Nelson took the obvious choice, the air corps. Then he turning up at my door before he shipped out to who the fuck knows where south east asian style, in uniform, impressing the shit out of my mother, not knowing he was there to attempt a cop, but it would be alight. Maybe. Soon, we'd be smoking banana peels, hell it was the age of Mellow Yellow and we were naive enough to believe anything.
And San Miguel was the beer of choice well into the season although I was not playing ball, I was working out like a madman. Suddenly the girls thought I wasn't such an awful thing, in fact, it was if I had acquired a musky scent of passion and they were all wide-eyed at the transformation, but I was true to my first love only taking out my former ostracized as-a-loser- frustrations, on all the greasers and punks and frat dudes who had spent five years dissing me in gym class, blowing them away in flag football games, on the wrestling mats, dodge balls wounds inflicted at unbelievable rates of speed and on the basketball court where my endless practicing was paying off with the addition of a body to fit the skills acquired working out before and after football practices, a sport I wisely didn't pursue into the high school season as our overmatched team was destroyed by larger schools, all the athletes in our school draft exempt because of the career threatening knee injuries, except for mine. And on the court where I outran them, took them to the hoop and used tricks learned on pickup courts, taking them out on lay ups, undercutting, swift shoves no ref would ever see, bodies up against the wall mother fuckers or face down on the mat broken nose rubbed in it, it was cool for all that year and after school there was always the San Miguels waiting in the ice box a couple of blocks away, San Miguel morning noon and night if I wanted them. and I wanted them. as I worked on my drinking problem right from the start of a drinking career that would span thirty years of wildly spinning out of control circles a vortex of whirl pooling hells, visions of demented Johanna’s on each level, all the baby blues of the mind screaming from pits of burning swamps. I was naked and alive giddy with the prospect of singing into the wildfires of dissipation, going down helter-skelter like man, years before Manson and I was ready for what would come, the hard stuff: drink drugs you name it, walking a thin tightrope of tenuous mental confusions, but I was so much older than that, I'm younger than that now.
And shit yeah, It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding, my knuckles raw from punching the walls, stucco patterned sides of buildings, glass doors and windows that gave in and caused endless lines, scars that are still visible on the broken increasingly arthritic hands, faint now but a constant reminder of what it was like to be seventeen and confused enough to think that depression and dissipation and disaffection and anger added up to being a poet manqué and that someday I would grow up to be Bob Dylan and get to live in the Village and walk around with a beautiful hippie chick hugging me close, my eyes firmly on the ground, thinking profound thoughts, reading the poets of dismay and decay and the death french modernists, rimbaud, verlaine, baudelaire and the wild men of no religion no god, I was a poet in the making and it only took a couple of San Miguels to get me there and the hands on the wall, the one reaching for the cold bottles in the fridge was this hot to trot, missing two front teeth married babe the kids are asleep hubby is on the road and I'm oh so lonely oh so lonely for what only a young man can give me, a real four star Holden C. thing and I did what any self respecting Salinger youth would do: I left a 45 rpm record for her to listen to a remake of Bob classic, “it ain't me babe”, by the turtles for her, an unmistakable message for her to get and she did alright, ma…go away from my window, leave at your own chosen speed, I'm not the one you want babe, I'm not the one you need, you say you're looking for someone, to bring you up each time you fall, to defend you and to protect you, to come each time you call, someone who will die for you and more, well it ain't me babe…and the verse not on the record the one that is closest to me now, a man sitting in darkness remembering the fateful, fitful past: melt back into the night babe, everything in here is made of stone, there's nothing in here moving ,and anyway I'm not alone…not alone, the images are living, dividing the past and the future into skinner box mazes I'm traveling lost and blind in, stealing booze from cabinets or getting the Colt 45's the aunt left on the back porch for us in paper bags as if they were some kind of Halloween candies for young men drinking to get high, to escape from the place where they were like the advertisement for downhill racer I would adapt as my credo years later staring out over the frozen wastes of the utica fields drunk and stoned into hallow man numbness…how long does it take a man to get from where he's at?...how long, I couldn't imagine it then, can't even now. Making the scene, whatever it was, still not someone who belonged but not treated as an untouchable, invisible useful as something to mock when all else failed or to ridicule or just piss on in the showers after an especially humiliating gym class, now a full-fledged rebel without a cause answering the call of the graduating youth service with my girlfriend and fellow seniors in the congregational youth service that I would begin my portion of, not mouthing the usual platitudes of god and man and youth and obedience to the cause and the right way whatever that was, standing up and saying, quoting the play and the dictum we worshipped from Marat/ Sade, Satan's prayer
O pray to him
Our Satan which art in hell
they kingdom come
thy will be done
on earth as it is in hell
forgive us our good deeds
and deliver us from holiness
Lead us into temptation
forever and ever”
a prelude to a short speech on the hypocrisy of church and state that brought a stunned silence and a communal, massive, reproving look from the little how townsfolk, row upon row of protestant good people all gone now, that last time I would be welcome inside that church until a generation later at a memorial service for my poor, dead, crazy as they got mother. And I soon I would be writing a Marat/ Sade of my own blindly going headlong down a vortex of my briefing for a descent to hell and it would go like this:
Marat/ Sade, as seen from inside, the Mineola
Playhouse, a BxW Still Life 1966
This is not the theater as we know it
but something artificial called Psycho
Drama. The character named Corday
is afflicted with the disease of sleeping,
insomnabulism, a walking infirmity common
to night creatures, that causes them to walk
the zombie life, without direction.
In the bathtub is a man whose dreaming
has caused his skin to erupt in sores
that can only be assuaged by laving,
a process similar to washing with lava
also known as trial by fire.
The wicked one who claims to be the Director
of farces is False as the word sadist
is not written in the Blue Dictionary
of Life as seen lying open by the tub
where Marat has left it after Corday
has dispatched him into blessed sleep
forever with her knife. On the walkway
ringing the stage, looking down on this
Live Performance are the inmates,
howling and jabbering their approval
of what is enacted on the live stage.
When the house lights dim, framing us,
the inmates in hospital gowns turn
grey, then black until all that can be
seen is the red fire lights of our eyes
flickering on and off in the dark.
And I was in the dark, 1966, nursing pints of contraband Vodka, sitting in the ball field dugout after dark drinking it straight on the edge of nowhere, the edge of the abyss, the edge of the sixties getting ready to jump off, screaming at the top of my lungs “It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding”, a carpe diem, live for today, national anthem for the doomed youth I was becoming faster than light years, faster than speeding bullets, speedballs, and marijuana faster than the tickets that are exploding all around me, this death on an installment plan midnight express, the milk train doesn't stop here anymore, up against it all the way, Ma, I'm only bleeding waiting in the shadows for that nineteenth nervous breakdown to claim it's most willing, its newest victim, getting her mother's little helpers screaming inside, hey you get off of my cloud, the smoke ringed clouds of nowhere 1966.
David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof