Todd Krasz of Kraszman & Fishwife, looking to ride the coattails of an unemployed writer, asked me to throw some words at his band.

Yes, and I already had the proper words for Kraszman & Fishwife, one of Rochester’s most-authentic roots-music outfits. Much of “Furniture” is drawn from a chapter in my novel A Bottle of Mezcal, an excerpt of which you can find under the Manuscripts section here. Images from the protagonist’s apartment, re-assembled into a malevolent, spoken-word chant. I gave “Furniture” a test ride at a reading at Boulder Coffee, and it went over well enough. But here, Todd raises it several levels. Or lowers it, that’s the proper perspective. I think you’ll agree.


I’m smoking. I’m looking for an ash tray.

I’m drinking. I’m a down-and-out cliché.

I stare out my apartment window. One of them, I have several. Windows, I mean, not apartments. Each window gives me a different perspective on the alley outside. Beyond the pigeon-shit sill, deep in the alley below, the same rat is always creeping along the wall.

I’m still smoking. I’m looking for an ash tray.

I’m still drinking. And it’s only Tuesday.

Most of the furniture here has a tag dangling from it. My landlady is in the used-furniture business. I own the couch and the bed, the rest can be yours. The television went five years ago, but any guy with an eye for neon can always find one in a bar.

That lamp. That bookcase. The appliances. On the wall, a reproduction of a painting from The Age of Enlightenment depicts, beneath a layer of dust, peasants bent like question marks in a potato field, digging, a romantic windmill in the distance. None of it is mine.

When strangers walk into your apartment and take your stuff, it makes a guy feel like he doesn’t really exist.

We hang our souls on such material charades. I keep a book of Portuguese poetry on my nightstand, to impress the women who never get there.

I continue smoking. I’m looking for an ash tray.

I continue drinking. I’m watching my mind and body slowly decay.

My suitcase is open on the bed, a snarl of sheets and blankets that exhale the funk of unspeakable acts, the stench of death and fried-food flatulence.

I peer at the face in the mirror on my medicine-cabinet door. It is the same face I’ve seen in the mirrors behind bartenders in every tavern that understands why men and women sit in the dark. The face turns away as I open the cabinet. It is nearly empty.

The cabinet, I mean. The cabinet is nearly empty.

All of the ash trays here are full.