To read the latest issue, click 'Issues by year' in the menu above

I wandered round on a street in town I had never been down before,
And I thirsted a thirst that was worse than the thirst
that that pondering person in Poe's poem nursed
for the love of his lost Lenore.
I forced my feet through the silent street that the dogs and drunkards pee on,
And I groped, and I moped, and I hoped against hope for a glimpse of friendly neon.

My life and times were a crowd of crimes that had laid my soul to waste:
Sins of commission, sins of omission, and sins against good taste.
I could make Don Juan look like Elton John (counting number of female conquests)
And I'd broken records, hearts and chairs on my many honky-tonk quests.

At last there loomed from the midnight gloom a dim little sign marked OPEN.
At the end of my rope came a surge of the hope against which I'd been hoping,              
That this door discreet on a dead-end street could provide me a drink or morsel –
And 'The Cafe of Cacophony' was engraved upon the door sill

The dank decor was a bilious bore, when I pulled aside the curtain,
Like a cheap casino outside of Reno, directed by Tim Burton
(Or perhaps in a pinch by David Lynch).
I pushed and ploughed through the loudest crowd that I ever had so far seen,
Every gruesome guest so bizarrely dressed that I thought of the Star Wars bar scene.
I craved a quaff of some good decaf, and I coughed out, "Have you got any?"
But the staffers laugh at decaf at The Cafe of Cacophony.

A band weighed in with a dreadful din like a drill press playing Zappa,
Mixed in a kettle with bad speed metal and sung by a Russian rapper.
My heart was seized with a nameless dread, so I thought that I ought to name it.
"Your name is Fred",  I inanely said, but it didn't help to tame it.

The counter girl brushed a stray blue curl off an ear nine tenths metallic,
And she touched my sleeve as I tried to leave, and in tones blasé and Gallic
She murmured low, "You can try to go, but I guess I ought to warn ya
That this address offers less egress than The Hotel California."

Then I knew too well I had found a hell which I'd thought was a harmless haven,
And my vision blurred at the thought of the word
that was said to the man by the big black bird
(I'm alluding to 'The Raven');
Something worse than Mace hissing in my face yanked me back as my soul was sinking,
And I knew no sleep ever gave respite
In this foul, frenetic, fluorescent night
As my pupils swelled to absorb the light,
Unprepared, uncontrolled, unblinking . . .

*          *          *          *          *          *        

I've been ill at ease, but by slow degrees I've been feeling less and less so,
And a desperate grin starts to settle in by your 94th espresso,
And the nicotine plays a polonaise on your frayed and frazzled nerves,
As the customers graze from silver trays of uppers and hors d’oeuvres.
I'd never been on drugs before, now I'll nevermore be off any,
But I'll drag my days through the hectic haze at The Cafe of Cacophony.