Year of the Red Fire Monkey: Charles Watts

October 4, 2018


Charles about himself: "Early in my career, I had an underground play (“Visigoths”) produced in Los Angeles, which led to script writing contracts for several TV series, including “Kojack” and “Here Come the Brides.” I fled Hollywood, got an MFA in poetry, and went to Iran to teach literature at several Universities. For five years, I edited Seizure, a magazine of poetry and fiction. I have also been a cab driver, social worker, refugee worker in camps in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Costa Rica, and owner of a tour company. My poems and stories have been anthologized in “Road Poets,” “Adirondack Epiphanies,” “Schroon River Anthology,” and “Karma in the High Peaks,” which won the “People’s Choice Award” for best book of 2010 from the Adirondack Center for Writing. My poems won the Patricia and Emmett Robinson Prize (2015) and first place at the North Country Writers Festival twice. My most recent books are “Cure Cottage” (five one-act plays), “Raptures” (short stories), and “Waking Up in a Beautiful Room” (poems). I currently split my time between Charleston, SC and Lake Placid, NY."


Charles in his poetic statement emphasizes: "The original surrealist movement was the bastard child of Andre Breton and the last dead Dadaist, who shall remain unnamed but suffered from dementia and thought it was still the 30's and Spain and Hemingway were coming to dinner. Surrealism’s spawn includes Dali, Rimbaud, and Aragon, and its progenitors the Marquis de Sade and Dante. It traveled through dreamscapes and escapes and eventually became a corpse inhabited only by folks who agreed with its manifesto. All others were considered anti-irrational materialist deceptionaries and were cast out as the movement became rancid, like a religion after the prophet dies. Depending on your favored etymology, “sur” can mean on top of, sour, south. “Real” means not false. The New Surrealist casts off the dogma of the past and embraces an unseen capstone, the sweet and bitter taste of life beyond the bounds of meaning, the preposterous reality that hides out of sight, south of an ice-thin shadow slung by an underlying chaos over the inert body of the socially acceptable. The only thing the New Surrealist rejects is everything the sagacious and balanced mind accepts as true."



Year of the Red Fire Monkey


the last time the world embraced
a year of the red fire monkey
full of sturm and yang
I was ten and in love
with Janet Evans, whose family
was an official cereal tester
for Kellogg and got free Special K
by the case
they liked it


I unpacked my clarinet
outside her window after
visioning her instead of algebra
instead of conjugating verbs
all day in middle school in middle Missouri
visioning her and me sitting on the roof
as five tornadoes danced among
the clouds and we embraced
knowing they would never descend
on us, for we were special
and our lives blessed


I did not know I would move
in the next year and never
see her again, so I wet the reed
and blew into that
ill woodwind that nobody
blows well and out came
a song both sharp and flat
and, in the end
signifying nothing


Paper Plate


a paper plate, crumpled
among the fallen branches
browning under the pines

relic of a culture addicted
to picnics and lying
in the needles
watching beasts stalk the stars
shivering before their growls


dig here, this is where
their trash was buried
a broken blade, obsidian
black as a cave, it entered
soft underbellies once
ripped out dinner
and was passed
through generations of sons
born to remember
the hunt, the forest


born to fall upon cities
sacking the whores
of religion, beating the gods
at their game, raising statues
of new gods, sacrificing children
to altars of fire


spiders construct elaborate webs
around the paper plate, crumpled
in the fallen branches



The Blond at the Bar


The blond at the bar
Was drunk and had
A yellow rose


She could not help
But offer commentary
As the feature poet


Did her best
To both ignore and respond
To the interloper’s voice


The blond had
A yellow rose
Stroked her husband’s


Clenched jaw with it
Laughed and took
His hat in a game


Of keepaway
He reached over
Held her to him


To keep her quiet
And when the poet
Finished got her


Stumbling up and out
Holding her remains
With loving smiles


At the audience
And embraced her
Out the door


Leaving the yellow rose behind


The Good Leader


study the face
it is empty but
the eyes are far away


his problem is not discipline
but desire


who will he be today
monk, storyteller
historian, navigator


who am I to judge
he whispers
before each decision
counting his doubts
like a rosary


after he leaves
it is said
we have accomplished all
this ourselves


Things Fall


“Things fall apart, the center”
No, there is no center
Only the hive, the collective


Each worker bee
Each particle of pollen
Carried by scent


Or instinct or touch
To some cell
To ferment, change


To become sustaining
To nourish not the self
But the whole, the tribe


Or cutter ants
Each carrying one
Leaf, one piece


Of some unimagined
Completion that will
Nurture, without our


Intervention. A man
Is not a man
A man is


A jagged element
Of a puzzle
That will never


Be complete





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