Michael Andrews Arts

See Announcements for details on publication of Archilochus poems in Arion Magazine.

405 North

405 North - Current Project

Currnt Project



This project is concerned with life on the Freeway, particularly the 405 on the west side of Los Angeles. No determination has been made whether or not to include other freeways, such as the 101, or other states and countries for that matter. Many of the images were taken through the windshield at the legal speed limit.


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Living In La

I live in a hot dry, desert
with iodine sunsets
lead skies
and fogs of acetone and ash.
We suck the rivers dry
running from the Sierras
and water what green we have
and I think of Tu Fu
sailing in the night.

I am one of the dead faces
behind the sooty windshields
on the 405 freeway
and behind the red lights
waiting for the green light
with the burned out bulb.

I had a heart once—
blood and muscle
and obsessive pumping.
One by one the universe
painted me pictures of
reasonable dreams and
the ludicrous promises of life.
The price is always
a chunk of heart and
one by one the universe
takes things away.

I was a poet once
and the conferences
and the academics
and the publishers,
the coteries, the high priests
cut it out of my heart
and replaced it with a scar
which rhymed with literary
allusions and critically correct.

I made money once.
I have nothing left
but Master Card threats in the mail,
income below the poverty belt,
no IRAs in the bank,
too old to hire,
no paid holidays to the Caribbean,
nothing but the poverty
of a thousand scars.

I was a philosopher once
and the same mob
strangled me
with a rope
twisted from
rags and idiocy.

My heart beats
a funny tune now,
more like a Model A
with dirty plugs.

I was an athlete once,
strong, straight and easy with grace
but an officer and a gentleman
turned my leg
into an unsalted pretzel.
Now I walk like a three legged camel.
Dysentery and stress,
yeast and bad food
stole the engine of my life,
turned my body
into a car battery
with two dead cells.

I was an artist once
and I was fool enough to believe
that artists made art.
Artists go to parties.
I am no good in a crowd
and the crowd
left my pictures on the wall
and bought the wallpaper instead.

I used to believe in love
but love brings terror
and nights of frozen black snot.
It brings pain and deprivation,
and sorrow
and more love.
Love brings its sister,
the princess of isolation
and bleeds the color
from the day
like a TV with a dying tube.
Love is the prison
we choose to die in
and love is all I've got.
It is our goodness
that mortars
the prison stones
around us.
It is our decency
that buries us
under mud and plastic flowers.

I had dreams once
but one cold, wet morning
the universe
walked outside
into it's garden
with a cup of hot coffee
steaming in its hand
and smashed each joy
and every dream
beneath it's boots
like the soft crunch
of so many snails
crawling from the dawn.

The universe just keeps
taking things away
one by one
until I am as naked
as a rich man's baby
waiting my turn
in the oven at
the White & Day mortuary.

The young men prowl the streets
with their vibrant dreams
and their straight legs.
They live high and drive Porsches
or they live poor and
clutch their poetry books
but it all comes down the same—
you burn a page of poetry
or you burn a dollar bill
and it's the same pile of ash.

The last of my joy drove off
the way a Mustang five point oh
leaves my Nissan wagon in the dust.

Now I drive the freeways
of this dying town
in my gutless Nissan,
just so much ambulatory ash
looking for a brass urn.
When I'm gone
turn me into ink
and print the poems
you pissed on
while I still
could catch my breath.

I hope it's not too much longer.
The world is as vast and empty
as the eyes of a presidential candidate
and I am just another dead weight
tromping down the other clay
that is still trying to climb
up to touch the stars.
I am just a worker cog these days.
I typeset the words
of poets with brighter futures,
print their books,
pay the bills
and watch sitcoms
at night
until the saccharine
aftertaste of oblivion
takes me down.
Poetry never saved a soul.

Before they pull my plug
and burn my words
there are only two rules
worth the waste of ink—
Give no pain.
Take no shit.

Everything else is a soundbight.

You can't break my heart.

It is only scar and snot
and the black dreams
of frozen cinder.

I have loved life
too much.