Flesh Wounds and the Outlaw Poetry of Thomas L. Vaultonburg

During the roughly ten year period between my second book, Detached Retinas, when I wrote Flesh Wounds, I never thought of myself as writing in the outlaw poetry style. I spent that decade working in various bars and nightclubs, sometimes in charge of security, so if anything I often thought of myself as the person trying to maintain order in a world defined by chaos. In retrospect, and looking back at the poems, I WAS chaos. The title Flesh Wounds is a rather straightforward allusion to working in an industry given to debauchery and moral ambivalence. No matter how else I looked at it, I was profiting from contributing to the destruction of others. I worked in strip clubs, sports bars, dive bars, fine dining, a country club, and finally was part owner of two bars with my brother. The first night I ever spent behind the bar as an adult I did little but wash glasses, but by the end of my time in the industry I was cooking, bartending, heading up security, and booking bands, all at the same time. I cringe to look back at all the times I was way out over the edge, under the protection of the saints, or just plain lucky enough to not have died. My third book, Flesh Wounds, is about that decade i spent in the service industry, and nothing about it is an embellishment. If anything, the most interesting things that happened have been omitted to protect the guilty.

Flesh Wounds TLVaultonburg

Starting with my Photoshopped version of Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas” holding a Schlitz while demanding proof of Jesus’ corporeal reality, Flesh Wound is just a book of irreverence. Nothing is respected, and no one is spared.

Meteors and heartache
And Chlamydia have
Avoided you.
Your perfect smile
Has never been knocked
Into your stomach
And your lovers
Are fresh, sane and
The most sought after
In any room.
You can’t dream you’ll
Ever end up begging
Someone used and scarred
Not to leave you
In the darkness.
But you can.
You will.
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg
Donor Card
The dying industrialists
Aren’t interested in my poems
And sure as hell don’t want me
Fucking their daughters,
But they offer me ten grand
Apiece for my kidneys,
And after I ball about
1,000 more waitresses
And drink 20,000 more beers
They can have ‘em.
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg
I spent most of that year stoned
On the Percoset and Xanax
My regulars gave me.
Even after the college boys,
Bikers, posers and dealers
Made off with their prey
There was always something
Left over for me.
The vodka was free
And I wasn’t forced
To resort to poetry once.
It was a good year.
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg
Severance Pay
Before that smug
Private school mouth
Could form the words
My low-rent reptilian
Brain knew were coming
I’d come up under that chin
With seven months
Of frustration
And all that pretty work
Work exploded like a thousand
Crimson birds escaping Hell.
I finished my Wild Turkey
And left that particular
Chapter in my service industry
Career groping for teeth
On the floor of his daddy’s bar,
Taking the utmost satisfaction
In my severance package.
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg
The Trouble
The trouble with
Maintaining standards
And appearances
Is the bad behavior
Gets all the good words
And if you do it well
They call you a
A miscreant
A rogue
And those are beautiful
I know it’s a weakass
Poem but if you’d seen
The young girl who
Insisted on wearing
A short, red skirt
Despite the subzero
Weather who inspired
It you’d understand
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg
Punk Rock Night at Castaways. A dive bar literally under a bridge we turned around.
The Souvenirs
I find the takeout menus
And martini graphs
From the restaurants
And bars where I
First met them.
I think of that
First kiss and smile.
I also keep the reminders
From the bus stations
Basement apartments
And motels where I
Last left them
To their doctors, car
Salesmen or
I find these jammed into
A book to mark the page,
Forget the anger,
And smile.
-Thomas L. Vaultonburg
How to Leave
Place 10,000
In Monopoly money
On the counter and
Explain this should
Cover the broken
Windows and back
Rent. Take a good
Hard shit in the
Toilet and leave
Bacon grease on
The stove. Make
Sure to toss a sixer
Of something classy
Like Blatz in the cooler
For the next broken
Down sucker to come
Through here.

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