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  • Charles Watts

Year of the Red Fire Monkey: Charles Watts

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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The image of Quasimodo is by French artist Louis Steinheil, which appeared in  the 1844 edition of Victor Hugo's "Notre-Dame de Paris" published by Perrotin of Paris.


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