A Kids’ Book Gift Guide by Dallas Clayton

When TWBE asked me to put together a holiday kids’ gift guide I was a little bit torn, after all the idea of me having to let you know what kinds of gifts to buy a kid is kind of defeating. But then I thought about all of those of you out there who know kids, but don’t have kids and maybe aren’t sure what to get for kids that will make them happy but also not freak their parents out. How do you climb that slippery slope? Answer: Books. Any time you can give a parent books they will be happy. Sure the kid would probably rather have a remote controlled helicopter but that’s what Santa is for. Besides, chances are that helicopter will be broken within the month, a good book can inspire kids forever. So, here are ten books that I think make great gifts for the holidays or any time.

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The Greatest Writer Alive

SPACES

If your house
got into a fight
with all the other houses on the block
would it win?

Does it have the character?
Does it have the heart?

When we are all asleep
and the buildings get together
and share stories
about us living inside them
Does your house use a funny voice
to mimic the way you talk to your dog?

Does your house ever worry
that you are going to leave it
for some bigger better place
closer to the ocean
with a kitchen you can eat in
and floors that look old but aren’t?

Would you tell it you were going
or just up and disappear one day?
Pay some men
to gut it
and stow its innards in a truck
leave its closets full of dry cleaning hangers
and pennies you couldn’t vacuum out of the carpet corners.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

QUESTIONNAIRE

Have you already taken
the greatest photograph that you will ever take?
What does it look like?

Where do you keep it?

How do you know?

As an adult
have you run
top speed
naked through a field?

More than once?

Have you been inside every
room in your house today?

How about every closet?

How long since you’ve been in every closet?

Too long I bet.

There’s plenty to be learned in those closets.
Fields.
Wasted snapshots.

And you paid for them.

Get in there.

Root around.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

TYPE

Scientists discovered a new prime number.
It has thirteen million digits.
It took seventy five computers
to figure it out.

You can never count to it.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

QUILT

I would like to make a quilt
as heavy as those vests you have to wear
when they take your x ray at the dentist
only full of small flowers instead of lead
like a lavender potpourri,
but big enough to cover my entire bed
and me as well.

No reason for this.
No marketing plan.

Just think it would feel nice.
Like being hugged
by a giant friend.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

SPIRIT ANIMALS

There’s a very unique feeling
that happens in your stomach
when you clean out your car
and decide to throw away
a dreamcatcher.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

THOUGHTS OF A PROPERTY MANAGER

Been washing the cement
on this same parking lot
every day for the past six years.

No one pays me.
Just like doing it.

It doesn’t get much cleaner
than it was the day before.

But the smell is nice

And I get to wave to people
on their way
to whatever jobs
they’ve been cut out to do.

Don’t know the name of the man who owns this parking lot
or where this hose is connected
but I like what I do.

And I don’t have to dress up for it.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

UPON RETURNING TO THE HARDCORE SHOW

I am towed under
by a wave
of small dangerous bodies
forged from a collective evil
puffed up and buzzing with energy
mottled like a hornet’s nest
and equally frail in practice.

I feel in an instant
like the happiest man alive
like a victor, bathed sunshine
and blanketed by rainbows.

I am no longer screaming
no longer flailing
I am still
and I am thankful
and haven’t for sometime
heard a song
that moved me

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

THORNS

At the freeway off ramp
a man offers me roses for five dollars.
Clipped to his collar
he has a chili pepper pin
which lights up and plays music.
It is three dollars.

It seems we’ve invented
a better, cheaper rose.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

REVOLUTION

As it turns out
when most people tell you they want to change things
what they really mean to say
is they want to change
the size and color
of the room
in which things take place.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

NOTES

The next time someone
parks their car
in a way
that annoys you so much
that you feel the need to leave them a note
telling them about it,
you should instead
just write them a note that says-
“Dear Jeff, now I know where to find you.
Don’t think I forgot about what you did to my little girl.
I’ll be watching you…”
Then draw a picture of a knife at the bottom.

This way, if they are not named Jeff
they will certainly reconsider parking
in or around this area so as not to be mistaken for Jeff
and if by chance they are named Jeff… well,
victory is yours.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

MAKING IT

In Hollywood
there is a zoo
that only celebrities get to go to
and take their children to
with magic animals
you can’t find anywhere else.

The children can ride the animals there.
And all the animals can talk.
One of the talking animals is a friendly griffin.
It is named Dulcimer.
It can juggle.
Sometimes it juggles knives.

Once Michael Jordan came
to the celebrity zoo
and he played Dulcimer the Griffin
in a game of one on one.

Dulcimer won of course.
Because he can fly.
And because Michael Jordan is 45 years old.
But it was a real close game.

If you move away from your loving family
and come to Hollywood
and get a job on TV playing a
popular dead outlaw
who killed innocent people
in the old west,
the Chamber of Commerce
might just tell you where this zoo is.

And then you can meet a
real life werewolf.
And take a picture with it
and send that picture
to all the people
in your life
who ever called you fat.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

ARCHITECT

Unfortunately
for most
who don’t regularly practice religion
the feeling of visiting a church
is most closely related
with seeing friends marry
and seeing friends dead.

Thus, to the spectator,
the place becomes
a selective devourer
teetering back and forth
from innocuous
cobblestone building
to gobbling wonderhouse.

A corner shop
whose insides forever change you
from what you were when you entered
to something completely different when you left.

Like going to the mall
in the middle of winter
to watch a baby delivered in the coin fountain
then five years later
back to the mall
to see it drowned.

Dallas Clayton

 

The Greatest Writer Alive

DON’T PRACTICE

I urge you think less
about the words you choose for your songs.
It is taking too much time.
Time you could be spending
high up on a bridge
late at night
with your legs slung over the side
writing bad graffiti
unknowingly risking your life
to tell people something
that most of them can’t even read
and even fewer can understand.

Dallas Clayton

The Greatest Writer Alive

BRONX

Before opening up a street lamp
and splicing together wires
to run power to extension cords
to allow the bands to play for free
for all the kids who care

it’s best not to worry about whether
you like the music enough
to risk being electrocuted
simply to provide it.

Otherwise there will be no revolution

Dallas Clayton

 

The Greatest Writer Alive

FIXED

I hope all my stolen bicycles
got ridden fast
and passed around often
had their best parts swapped out
and traded for drugs
that were used to write good songs
and have good young fun
like stealing bigger things
and crashing them into walls
and getting arrested on accident
and getting ratted out by a guy
who only days earlier
let you burn him with a cigarette lighter
because he said you were brothers for life.

I hope they found new homes
in abandoned warehouses
and darkened alleys
and were taken in by older men
who could no longer hold a license,
were running from something,
weren’t supposed to be here at all.

I hope those men took off on them
as far as they could get
before their old knees and old hearts gave in
and stranded them
some place they’d never been
and never thought they’d be
and they met someone there
at a store
on a dark road
who reminded them of a daughter
they hadn’t spoken to in some time
and they tried to call her
but the line was dead.

I hope the remains
were salvaged for scrap
by industrious someones
good with their hands
who saw promise in those old beasts
and roped them to a roof
and drove them through the rain
and into a converted garage
where they were stripped with gasoline
and fit with different pieces
from orphaned others
and made strangely better
spray painted a young child’s favorite color
and given as a gifts
from one person to another
the first gift they would ever get
that would teach them the value
of falling down
and getting back up again.

Dallas Clayton

 

The Greatest Writer Alive

NAME CALLING

There was a point in my early teens
where I looked like a girl
and my girlfriend looked like a boy
and we would make out
on the bench in front of Taco Bell
inside the mall
on Friday nights
because there was no where else to make out
and this seemed natural then
like it does now
to dim the lights
and slip into comfortable shorts.

Most people
thought we were gay
and burned us with side glances
as they strolled to and from JCPenny’s.

Depending on the angles
and the shadows of the mall lighting
sometimes we were boy on boy
and sometimes girl on girl.

But split down the middle
we were out and out offensive
and well-worthy of under-the-breath cursing.

It is liberating
in a very natural way
to be accidentally damned to hell
in the minds of old southern strangers
just for being young and ugly.

Dallas Clayton

 

The Greatest Writer Alive

CIVILIZATION

The leaves have grown thick
atop the monuments
erected in memory
of horrible men
who amassed by horrible means
all of the wealth needed
to cement their legacies
as heroes.

Dallas Clayton

 

The Greatest Writer Alive

TECHNIQUE

A friend told me
that a powerful exercise
is counting the steps as you walk (on a long journey)
and inhaling every twelve steps
then exhaling every twelve steps.

You are supposed to repeat this cycle twenty four times
and then (he says) things will become very clear.

I have tried this two days in a row
but have lost count each time
and started thinking about things like
“where can I get a good sandwhich” and “how come
that guy is pounding on the side of that bus.”

Dallas Clayton

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