Tony Barnstone: Psychedelic Apocalypse Blues

Tony Barnstone teaches at Whittier College and is the author of 19 books and a music CD, Tokyo’s Burning: WWII Songs. His books of poetry include Pulp SonnetsBeast in the ApartmentTongue of War: From Pearl Harbor to NagasakiThe Golem of Los AngelesSad Jazz: Sonnets; and Impure. He is also a distinguished translator of Chinese literature and editor of world literature textbooks.  Among his awards: the Poets Prize, Grand Prize of the Strokestown International Poetry Contest, Pushcart Prize, John Ciardi Prize, Benjamin Saltman Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the California Arts Council. His website is

NWCC says thank you for the poem!



Psychedelic Apocalypse Blues


In the seam of the universe there was a psychedelic glow, and no, it

was not the Taj Mahal like a dancing bangled god,

not blue lights under the tables and glasses glowing in the palm tree

bar and the curved moon carving the black roast of the sky,

not the sculpture’s praise of stone in solemn columns of brightness


not the documentary titled Life or the plink plunk of Vegas water-lights

flashing like coins into a tray.


It was the dollar dropped into the jar for cussing at God.      

It was an ice cube melting below the fridge like a secret parable.

It was the mercury rising from the sludge by the pier up through the

great chain of being all the way to the sushi bar in Brentwood.

It was the poplars darkening with the chirring of wings and the clicking

of mandibles and the black legs and carapaces, slick as glass.

It was the breading of broken light around the black hole suck.

It was toe jam football and life in the crossfire and Robert Johnson at

the crossroads playing like the devil at the edge of storm.

It was the dog put down and going up in hot loving ash.

It was a little sparkle of But I really love that woman, can’t stand to

leave her be, before the late edition news of the apocalypse,

and Let there be darkness beginning to circulate, circulate, to




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