Monday, March 15, 2010

Catfish McDaris

Albuquerque, New Mexico


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

mac th nife

Catfish McDaris

“I was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico on July 29th, 1953. I learned to lay brick, block, and stone from my father and grandfather. I was in the artillery for 3 years in the army. Then I moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin 35 years ago. I worked for the Post Office for 30 years and married a Mexican beauty 28 years ago. We have 1 daughter, soon to become a cop.

The interview I did with Charles Plymell [♣] is my main connection to the Beats. I did the first interview in ‘97 & another recent one for Outsider Writer. Plymell is 77 & I'm 56, so I’m not really old enough to have known the main Beats well. I did do a book with Bukowski & Jack Micheline (Kerouac wrote the intro to Micheline’s 1st book) ours was called Prying (an anthology of poems published by Four-Sep Publications 1997).

At the Beat reading at Ginsberg's farm [1997] was Anne Waldman with her nephew, David Amram [♣] with his daughter (he owns an organic farm now), Ed Sanders (formerly of the Fugs), Ray Bremser(an ex bank robber, and poet, now dead), Dave Church (a cab driver poet, now dead), Janine Pommy Vega, and many more."

[ Charles Plymell welcomed Neal Cassady, his girl Anne Murphy, and Allen Ginsberg into the large apartment he rented in the Haight area of San Fran in 1963; Plymell also became a close friend of Bill Burroughs. I will soon do a feature piece on Plymell who, with his wife Pam, started Cherry Valley Editions - and published Herbert Huncke, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Ray Bremser, et al. ♣ David Amram, most people won't know - he played backup music for Kerouac when he read.  Editor]


The young Catfish McDaris, Corrales, New Mexico. 

Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire

He asked me if I'd
read before him

"Sort of warm up
the crowd for
the main attraction"
he chuckled

I replied,"Sure,
remember the time
Hendrix opened for
The Monkees?"

Wrinkles of doubt
clouded his forehead. 

Two Red Sailors

Sitting here in my
rat hole apartment
looking at the painting
Jack Micheline sent me
before he died

I miss him with all my
heart, his ghost might
be sitting in the
closet for all I

Listening to Guy Clark
singing about skinning
a Hollywood movie star

About there ain't no
money in poetry and
that's what
sets a poet free

I realize I have no
idea what I'm doing

Maybe the two red
sailors know, all
I know is I miss
Jack Micheline

Like a heart attack
from GOD.

OB GYN Blues

Accompanying my wife to the gynecologist,
I found a seat in the waiting room, pregnant
women kept arriving, I tried to doze

I soon came under attack by the
farting contest, one lady sounded like
a Vespa scooter, poppa pop ftttt ftt foo

Another matched her with a braaat
braatt braa bra like a sheep being
strangled by barbed wire

Another sounded like a snoring
wino in his death throes nghaaa
nghaa ngha ngh nggggg aaaa

The last sounded like a 62 Corvair
with no muffler being revved up,
she grabbed her ass & screamed
“Oh goodness” & took off at a run

I laughed & cried so hard, a nurse
was removing the oxygen, as my
wife & her Dr. exited his office
She took one look & said, “Don’t
even ask,” they all gave me
the evil eye.

No Longer Here

a dying bull's eyes bulge
from a nightmare disbelief face
amigo's daughter is dead

i watch his soul
shrivel & walk away
tears river down granite jaws
fist sledgehammers pound
hearts to a bloody pulp

not expired not passed away
no longer alive
a piece of meat for worms

23 years
she'd been his life
her whore mother long gone

there are no words to convey solace

watching my daughter
opening presents under the tree
i lapse into guilt & pain
a blue sorrow
i can not imagine
it claws my eyes to blindness

my wife stares at me
without understanding
like something abstract
a de Kooning

"this is suppose to be
a happy time" she explains

but I'm gone

jack lemur just released from prison hulk 'success' (one of nelson's ships)
from the play 'yellowgirl' by phil motherwell.
painting on arche paper by karl gallagher 1980s 

Contemplating Insanity

I stare at the sun,
but it gives no warmth.

The waves crash against
the beach and sanity.

Is sanity swallowing pride?
Is sanity feeling turmoil curl
inside, so deep your guts churn?
Is sanity eating dirt daily?

Insults overwhelm me.
Only steel gives comfort.
A gun is too impersonal.

There is no choice.
I must let my pain
meet theirs.

Therefore am I sane?

A Trojan Whore

While dreaming of
naked women
in marijuana fields
in the Mexican

The lady next to me
told me how she
threw her panties
at Tom Jones & Elvis

Now she can't find a date
she wrote her phone
number on a pack
of Trojans & slipped
them in my pocket.


The Red Sea

One who accepts death
in all manifestations,
will always be a victor
over one who fears
for their life

Acceptance is a reward

The shadows are empty,
they weren't always

Nor was your heart,
nor my promises,
nor our destiny

Our laughter flew with eagles,
our tears filled rivers,
our blood melted the sun

As I carve these words
into the oar,
the fins come closer

You quit loving me,
now I row

But as I stare
at the sea,
I remember your smile.

Caliginous Blues

It was Martin
Luther King Day
I didn't have
any dreams

The 1901 Cincinnati
safe I opened contained
2 kilos of Peruvian rock

A 357 snub nose
a stamp worth 90
grand a signed photo
of Elvis & a stack
of hundreds

I sampled the blow
gathered the loot
boarded a plane

Woke up descending
above Regina, Saskatchewan.

Strangling On Prayers

Mumbling to the river
blue empty sky, words
sometimes strangle

The best stay inside
where shreds of
sanity dwell

Others float in a baby's milk
in the spin of a marble game
in colors on a home made Mother's Day card
on the floor of a church

in a spray of bullets
in a pool of blood
in tears on a black dress
in the dust of a fading photo
of a smiling child

Staring eyes choked
on words better left unspoken.




Catfish and the late Ray Bremser - Cherry Valley, New York, 1997

Catfish with daughter Elizabeth

Catfish McDaris recently won a Flash Fiction contest at Buns & Barbs judged by the 2009 poet laureate, Jonathan Penton from Unlikely Stories; he has an interview with Charles Plymell; and a video with Belinda Subraman on Outsider Writer; he has work on/in The, and Black Listed magazines.

McDaris has been published in New York Quarterly, Louisiana Quarterly, George Mason Quarterly, Main Street Rag, Pearl, Bukowski Review, Chiron Review, Haight Ashbury Review, Sho, xibLobster Cult, Thirteen Myna Birds, Beggars & Cheeseburgers, Sex & Murder, Gutter Eloquence, Naughty Girlx, Unlikely Stories. and many more.

He won the Uprising Award in 1998. He has won the Poetry Slam twice at the Green Mill in Chicago, birthplace of the poetry slam. His last poetry reading was at the Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Paris.


McDaris published on these sites (among others):


Previously published:

Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire

Contemplating Insanity published in The Hold hard copy magazine.


McDaris’s 1st interview with Charles Plymell in1996 is published here:


" mac th nife - yah i remember that name neal said, and so did i, me being younger (then 1968) had known bobby darren's version in '58, ol mac the knife. this kid mac th nife - he spelled out to us. neal an me roared lauging. you could tell this kid could make it, he knew Time. beboperoo didgeri doo. an who were we anyway though neal did express a few regrets to him, like trying to forewarn him, about how life can take unexpected turns that can knock you down - for keeps." jack karlos notebooks: san pedro. (prev unpubished).  

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kathy Skaggs

Appalachian Country

Kathy Skaggs

prose n poems

The House in Maple Holler

When I was six months old, my parents and I moved into a three-room wood frame house built onto a two-story log house in the Maple community of Taylor County, Kentucky, about half a mile from where I live now. I loved that old house and the woods around it. One of my earliest memories is as a very small child, two or three, being out in the woods, listening to my mother call me, feeling irritated that she always wanted to know where I was. I knew where I was. I had things to do.

The log part of the house once belonged to King Solomon Skaggs, the son of Solomon Skaggs, one of the founders of Zion Separate Baptist Church. Solomon Skaggs probably built the log house, but no one knows for sure. He lived there in 1850 and ran a mill in the creek that runs in front of the house. The old deeds sometimes refer to this creek as Mill Creek and sometimes as Phelps Fork of Little Pitman Creek. Pitman Creek runs into the Green River and then on to the Mississippi.

There were two giant maple trees in the front yard which may be how Maple got its name. I always thought Solomon Skaggs probably planted those trees, or left them there when the rest of the trees were cut to clear a space for the log house. We weren’t related to Solomon or King Skaggs, except maybe distantly. King Skaggs died in 1935 and sometime after that my father’s great-uncle, Waller Shofner, ended up with the property. My parents rented the house from him for $10 a month.

The house wasn’t much but I was too young to know that. We had a wood stove in the living room with the stovepipe in the flue on the end of the house. We had a cheap colonial living room suite with brown cloth-covered cushions: a sofa, a rocking chair, an armchair, a coffee table, and two end tables. The bedroom was the next room in the line. Mama and Daddy had a three-quarter bed by the window. I had a crib across the room and later a twin bed.

The kitchen had a kerosene heater, a kitchen table and chairs, a water stand, an old Victrola, and an electric stove and refrigerator. On the water stand was a bucket of drinking water with a metal dipper. Mama washed dishes in a round dish pan and used her roasting pan for rinsing. She put the pans on the table when she did dishes and heated the water on the stove in a big teakettle. We didn’t have wall cabinets, but we did have a Hoosier cabinet, one of those freestanding cabinets with a counter on it and a sifter for the flour. According to the Amish Peddler:

In the early 1900's a Hoosier Cabinet could be found in a large percentage of homes in the United States…. "Hoosier" was the name given to a particular style of kitchen work unit, popular in the early 1900's which included an oak cabinet and many special features such as pull-out porcelain work areas, flour bins, sugar bins, tin bread drawers, and spice jars. It was an essential part of the woman’s efficient kitchen. The name "Hoosier" was derived because the Hoosier Cabinet was originally and almost exclusively made in the Hoosier state of Indiana.

Mama also had a wringer washing machine in the kitchen. Daddy would haul water for her from the creek and fill it up. She had a little submersible heater she would put in it to heat the water. She washed the light stuff first and then moved on up to the heavy clothes. She hung the clean clothes out on the clothesline. I loved waking up to the smell of chlorine bleach in the morning.

There was a front porch that ran the entire length of the house. We had an old metal settee on it. The porch was built up off the ground. Once when the creek got up, the water came right up to the edge of the porch before it started receding. The creek rushed by brown with dirt and full of trees and logs and other things that had been washed away. We never worried about the creek getting up in the house. It never had. We weren’t allowed to wade in the creek until June 1 and then at first we could only go as far as “Eugene’s Field,” about half a mile from the house. Mama says the old log house used to be bigger. There was a door going from the wood frame house to the log house, but we mostly didn’t use it. Mama used to hide our Christmas presents in the log house, and in the summertime we would play in there. It was too cold to play in there in the winter.

Outside, directly behind the kitchen, but all the way at the back of the yard, was our toilet. Just one seat. Your typical country toilet. We used toilet paper, not torn-up newspapers like you read about in books. At the end of the log house were the remains of an old smoke house. On the other end of the back yard, toward the road, was the hen house. We had chickens when I was very young. I loved those chickens, loved Mama feeding them. I still feel nostalgic for chickens and think maybe someday I’ll fix the hen house behind my house and have some chickens. Over the hen house grew a huge trumpet vine with orange flowers.

Beside the house, past the smokehouse ruins, was the garden. As my mother says, it was a very good garden, except cucumbers would not grow there. Along the road side of the garden grew what people now call day lilies, those orange flowers that bloom during the day and close up at night. We called them flags. We also called blue irises flags. And at the back of the garden was an old truck, also in ruins. But when I was very young that old truck would still start. It had a button starter which meant that I could get the engine going myself. My grandfather Beams and I would go out and sit in the truck together and he would let me start it.

The house was located on what is now called Mill Creek Road on the maps. Mill Creek Road used to go all the way through from what is now Maple Road to what is now Gravel Point Road. Two old log bridges have rotted through so you can’t drive through there anymore and it’s a difficult walk. You have to climb down into the gulley made by the creek to cross, making your way along barbed wire.

This is the house I lived in from age six months to age nine, the house I always loved, the house I lived in from the time I became conscious of myself until I lost myself when I started to school. This is where I remember when I remember being in Maple.

My earliest dreams were of this place. The first dream I remember having, when I was two or three, was of
the woods on the hill directly behind our house. I went up into the woods alone and found a little house. A witch was stirring her cauldron over a fire beside the house. When she saw me, she started chasing me all the way back to our house. I ran to the living room back door that was always kept latched but somehow then it wasn’t. I managed to shut the door just as the witch got there and latched it back. She kept scratching and banging on the door until I woke up.

The only other early dream I remember was of “the Germans” landing in the cemetery near our house. In my early imagination, “the Germans” were little green men in a flying saucer, a combination of the 1940s World War II movies and the science fiction movies of the 1950s that we saw at the drive-in or I heard on TV after I went to bed.

I still dream of that old house. Sometimes in my dreams I return to the old house and go into the upstairs of the log part. Instead of being empty and abandoned, it is filled with all kinds of interesting things, trunks and boxes, old toys, the kinds of things a child in a book might find in the attic of a house, potential treasures that somehow got left behind, forgotten. I always feel a sense of expectation, of hope at what I might find hidden there. I always feel sad when I awaken, and that house is gone, and there are no treasures waiting to be discovered.


Irreparable Harm

Sometimes you don't know it's been done until later
although sometimes later you can look back
and see the exact moment it was done.
Sometimes it's only a word "no”
or "yes"
a phrase: "go on then"
abrupt as the sound of a shutting door.
Sometimes the words themselves are interminable
the silence after
an oasis of peace.
Sometimes you both try to pretend
nothing important really happened
and you go on for weeks (usually seven)
pretending but inside you know.
Sometimes though you know the exact moment
the words are spoken
that already it is too late
while his dreams crash down around you
and slivers of hope pierce your bare feet
as you walk behind him to lock the door.

You can try the things you've tried before
make lists of all the reasons why it was really his fault
ways in which you're both better off
good things you've done for him
you can call someone you haven't hurt
recently and ask for comfort and get none
no matter how much is offered
you can change your mind
but not your ways
flowers candy apologies
only temporarily
balance the shifts of power
and making amends
only works in twelve-step groups
only a miracle can change things now
but you've forfeited your right to ask for another one
and ultimately
the only thing you can do
if you care about honor at all
is to live with it.

Luxuries We Can’t Afford

It’s like getting a divorce
    and your ex-husband is rich
    and respectable and not too ugly
    and now you’re broke
    free and broke, but mostly broke

And all your friends and even your son
    say you’re just going to have to go back
    and you know they think you’re crazy
    honest and crazy but mostly crazy
    not to mention broke

And I’d-rather-kill-myself
    not to mention what-about-love?
    convinces them of nothing except
    you’re probably not safe
    on your own anyway

Which just goes to show
    you should go back, that’s all they’re saying
    they’re just trying to be helpful.

All you have to do
    is close your eyes
    and think of the health insurance.

Riding in Cars

I'm all about men, I say, I like
how hard they are. No one married.
Been there, done that, too many times.
No one younger than my sons.
No. Not ever.

    Then you arrive at my door, I let you in,
    past groceries waiting on the table, cornbread
    molding in the pan, dirty dishes in the sink,
    clothes scattered on the living room floor,
    past emails, conference calls,
    reason, reasons, rules, and fear.

I open the door. I let you in.
As simple as that.


I grew up in the Maple community of Taylor County in central Kentucky, the daughter of a sewing factory worker and an alcoholic truck driver, carpenter, and mechanic. After I graduated from high school I went away to Western Kentucky University, already pregnant by my high school boyfriend. We married during my first semester in college, but I managed to stay in school. I had another child and graduated college a semester early, winning a full scholarship to New York University Law School. After law school I moved back south with my family, eventually divorcing my husband. I’ve had many occupations: lawyer, director of a maternal and infant health outreach program in Appalachia and the lower Mississippi Delta, grant-writer, newspaper reporter, and writing teacher to name a few.

In 1995 my father, who quit drinking when I was 17, died at age 63, making me realize that life is too short not to do what we want to do. So I finally started writing, something I’d wanted to do all my life. Since then, my work has been included in two anthologies in the Kentucky Feminist Writers Series and in a variety of print and online journals such as Number One, Gertrude, Appalachian Women’s Journal, The Time Garden, Slur, Penny Dreadful Review, and The Journal of Sacred Feminine Wisdom. I’ve published two chapbooks, The Poet Laureate of People Who Hate Poetry from Time Barn Books, 2007, and The Place I Come From, Alliance Press, 1998. I have another chapbook due out in 2010 from Propaganda Press. I was Artist-in-Residence at Hopscotch House in Prospect, Kentucky in 2006, 2007, and 2008. I moved back to Maple in 1998, where I live now with my dog Brownie, next door to my mother. I make a living from my grant-writing, journalism, and even, occasionally, my poetry.

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The Poet Laureate of People Who Hate Poetry, Time Barn Books, 2007.
Available from