John Claude Smith


He said to pick him up at work
Gave me directions
“Come by at six, Savatage at eight.”
We’d seen the band a couple times already
Before the guitarist who was goddamn brilliant
Was killed by a drunk driver.
Man, that’s messed up.
Sometimes the universe is just fucking cruel.
I show up at the gates to the job where my buddy
Works as a grease monkey
A mechanic.
He’s standing out front and looks wrong
Like something the cat hacked up
Says we should eat first
As he plops heavily into the passenger seat.
Smells rank
I figure it’s been a long day under the hood.
We hit the Mexican joint down the street.
The spicy guts of a fat burrito
Spill out over his always filthy fingers.
Afterward he looks no better.
“You sure you can do this?”
He nods but then it hits me
Baseball bat to the obvious.
“What are you on?”
He ignores me
Sucks hard on a cigarette held in shaky fingers.
“What the fuck, dude?”
“I’ll be fine.”
Fine loses once he settles back into my car
As he apologizes for heroin
“That black tar shit”
Evening shot to hell
Just like my mind, my mood.
I drop him off at the gate of his work
Watch him as he climbs into the cab of a semi
Nods at me as his face melts
A flawed Icarus
Once again flying too close to the sun.
Shit waste of time
I should have known better,
But that’s part of the deal
When your best friend is a junkie.


Scraping veins and power chords for a pipeline to
Annihilate existence
No illusions couched in the
Possibility of hope
Doom comes down like a ragged hole
Torn from a cymbal-laden sky
While the bass guitar is cranked so loud
Organs and bones are jostled, rearranged
–I can hear with my teeth—
The sonic tapestry crusted
In blood and semen
In death and desire
In something that rattles rafters and peels paint
Off auditorium walls tattooed with graffiti
As another power chord resonates ‘til decay
The only word climbing out
Of a sandpaper and whiskey-doused throat
The truth all comers have been waiting for
Enlightenment for souls gone AWOL
“Endurance,” the vocalist wails
A mantra, a loop, a psychotropic suggestion
A tab of acid that cracks enamel
“Endurance,” again and again
The point of it all no point at all
We are here and then we are gone
Food for worms or ashen remains from nuclear holocausts
Tumors squirming upon radioactive fields
Coughing, gagging
And the band played on and on and on and…

John Claude Smith says, “I’ve had two novels, three collections, four chapbooks, and perhaps 20+ poems published. My debut novel, Riding the Centipede, was a Bram Stoker Award finalist. I am presently shopping two novels and a novella, while wrapping up another novel, and putting together a fiction collection and a poetry collection. I split my time between the SF Bay Area and Rome, Italy, where my girlfriend, who told me to send you some poems, resides.”