The End of Austin

an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas

Austin: One Thousand Songs

katie b poems

Photo courtesy of Kelly Stocker, Culture Map: Austin



When the fuck did I move to this town? I

have literally no idea – this dawn, my brain

stopped synapses, stripped me senseless.

I recall only the night I ran from our

Brentwood home, convulsions under

February moon, our ocular lock as you

fucked up Bach, the old man with the van,

and hibernation on a professor’s couch.

Slacker days, Barfly’s at night, I learned to

Austinite. And then one morning I strode

onto South Congress with a guitar,

slouched loud and useless ‘til a bum

pointed at Sixth Street, grinned. It was

round five, bats were beginning their

purposeful evacuation and the sun, too was

so outta there. I sat on the corner of the

biggest street in The Music Capitol of the

World and plucked in the dusk. Nobody

cared but a couple of street buskers. They

sat still, clapped. They liked me. They really

liked me.



No money, no food, clouds: things that can

harsh a mellow. On the café patio sipping

rosé, my mellow is real; moments earlier I’d

been on the street, high on lack. I play Bob

Marley and three little girls dance, offer

dollars. The sun slides down the sky like a

gleaming slug a sidewalk. A fat man in a

suit asks for an original, calculates the angle

at which to cock his head, builds adequate

tension, hears not a word. I can smell

money coming I tell you when he forks

over the hundred-dollar bill in a pay-it-

forward way, purposeful, connoting

SYNERGY, an effort to synergize the

universe into allowing him as some award

for impressive humanitarianism to sleep

with his standoffish date doubtless. I assure

him I will, pay it forward that is, put in an

order for spaghetti and booze pronto.



Like allegory of the cave I am a shadow

aware of quotation marks while others

believe they are made of quarks, swaying

through fake candlelight in the dark,

gumby robots miming electric sex to the

thump of the kick. Here I am whiskey-

slick, slunk, like the old lady who

swallowed the rainbow about to be

vibrantly sick, when this guy sitting behind

me in a ten-gallon uncrosses his legs so I

can like push my chair back relax stretch

and breathe or something like “here you

go” no sweetie or nothing, no, just a gentle

uncrossing of the legs from the guy behind

me. And slow as in a dream I swivel round

to see this hovel is vibrant in the electric

gleam. In their robot suits, everybody is

dancing minutely. I am acutely aware

of my own vibrating and I, vibrating

feel that I am not a shadow puppet

perhaps but a breathing mitochondrial

clan and I’m thinking like thanks, man.



There is a Christmas tree here and a giant

pink elephant. You are not here, which is

the elephant in the room, too, because I’m

about to sing one thousand songs to you.



To float off the stage into some cracked

man’s leopard-print necktie leopard-print

jacket leopard-print leather pants wildly

mirroring lizard mind isn’t unusual here:

there is Lightnin’ Hopkins, there are punks,

and to sing a country tune – where are you,

where are you now so far from this slow

dive into whiskey and broke bottles, fairy

lights and the slow glottal intake of

outcasts – is not unusual. Slats of glass

attract us crowlike to this East Side bar. We

arrive on foot, order Lone Star. There are

geraniums in an overturned shopping cart,

and a wilted man smokes a cigar.



Peanuts and m&ms on the bar. Cinnamon

beer. A taxidermied wildcat. Candlelight.

The girl’s arms were tatted with Hello

Kitty and the boy had taken a knee.

I played Neil Young on my Martin

in memory of thee. He popped

the question (i’m still in love

with you) and the answer

was they’ll be divorced in

three years based on

body language and

chance (i wanna

see you dance




Saturdays at eight you enter and order

Live Oak, the barman winks below

his ‘hawk, three little girls take shots,

old men talk shop. Oh tall soft one,

I will play you Dolly Parton, and a year

from now we’ll spend a Sunday at Barton

Springs, chatting about Newtonian physics.



the lights of Austin smile down as we play for the

Congress elite. It’s like the Wayne Shorter show

when we did ‘shrooms: totally fucking sweet. You

play Monk and I wink at crunchy mid-forties.

The Paramount is filled with these beautiful

mothers, but we have eyes only for each others’.

Yours, I recall, were brown and round as giraffe

hooves caked in savannah mud when we met

unarmed at the intersection. I wore heels and

flowers, thank the Lord, while you looked like

Marshall Mathers pre-fame. We exchanged

appropriate avoidances, but I managed to shake

your hand, wheedle a gram of gleaming jaunt

from under your hoodie. Lord how I loved you.

How hard it will be to leave this town.


Katharine Battistoni lives in Austin with a typewriter, three guitars, and the complete works of e e cummings, if material possessions are to say anything of character. She can be found here: and here:

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2016 by in Creative Writing, downtown Austin, East Austin, poetry.
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