Category Archives: Writer’s Block

Get it today! Perfume & Cigarettes now available!!

We at Six Ft. Swells Press are celebrating and invite you to celebrate with us. Out today, the new book of poetry by Madeline Levy, click the link below to purchase your copies. This is an extraordinary book of poems from and exceptionally talented poet and person and we are proud to add Madeline’s work to the Six Ft. Swells catalogue, which continues to pillage the poetry world in true After-Hours style. Don’t believe us? Read her words and see how your heart feels after…


The poems in Perfume & Cigarettes by Madeline Levy come at you like Tom

Waits driving a 1957 Cadillac onto the sleek asphalt of night, with only the

red glow of taillights sending kisses on the road to everywhere. These poems

take us places, somewhere between the proper and the profane, the dive

bars and the five-star restaurants. These are poems with wicked grins and

sharp edges that will leave a “tiny-sized cut in the back of your heart,” and

make us believe that “apple pie & cyanide” are a good idea.

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Filed under break up, Drinking, lost love, Poetry, Publishing, Small Press, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing

I too, am a total Sucker…

“Got this fantastic book of poetry today. I must say it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. With all the tears I’ve cried the past few days it was nice to laugh a little. Todd Cirillo totally love this. I’ll be rereading it later tonight with a nice glass of wine or a couple shots of rum or maybe both.
I to am a total sucker.”  –April Barlow, Oklahoma Six Ft. Swells fan

True Testimony from another satisfied sucker!  You all can pick up your New Years copy of Todd Cirillo’s “Sucker’s Paradise” on along with all other illicit Six Ft. Swells titles; “The Distance Between” from Julie Valin and “The Coast is Clear” by Matt Amott.



Filed under Drinking, Poetry, Publishing, Small Press, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing

The Blues Just Ain’t the Same Without You Baby….

This one is still for you….who remains my musical junkie equal.

Who Knew

There are days

when we

will put on nothing but

Sonny Boy, The Wolf,

Mississippi John Hurt,

Muddy, Son House,

John Lee Hooker

and, of course,

Robert Johnson.

She will pick an album

then I will pick an album.

We will go through

breakfast, lunch

and dinner,

kissing in between,

laying in the grass

talking about clouds,

holding hands,

alternately putting

our heads into

each other’s lap.

In the background–

cotton fields, trains,

devils, jealous lovers

and broken hearts.

Who knew

the Blues

could make us

this happy?

–Todd Cirillo


Filed under Poetry, Publishing, Small Press, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing

BUK rhymes with PUKE

Don't Try

“A poem is often something that is only necessary toward one man–the writer.  It’s often a perfect form of selfishness.  Let’s not credit ourselves too much.  Garage mechanics are more human than we are.”  –Bukowski

Happy Birthday Bukowski!  You old fuck.  It is no secret that us here at Six Ft. Swells Press wave the Bukowski flag proudly.  What can we say?  We love the old, ugly bastard, he was a good duker, as he’d say.  Those of us here, had connected with Buk separately at different times and very different places in life but when we finally found one another under the neons, we were already halfway there in friendship as soon as the first of us threw out a quote from Love is a Dog from Hell or Women.  It was immediate recognition that we were in the presence of someone true, someone who understood.   The booze has flowed freely ever since and we are all the better for it.

There have been years of laughter and lewdness, years of blood, stitches in the morning, broken parts at midnight and car titles lost at bars.  We have had marriages (one that lasted), love affairs, lost loves; loves we thought were lost but found again in the strangest places, childbirths (hell even the mighty Bukowski had a daughter), tremendous arguments and even better make ups, travels across the country and quiet evenings at home just sitting on the couch with a bottle between us.  But always a Bukowski book never far out of reach.  We always return to you Buk for good or ill.  All of your pain, wickedness, clarity, grossness, self-confidence, honesty, bravado and lust.  And why?  The Pabst Blue Ribbon tells me because you make us believe we can do it, or you cut the shit and tell us to hang it up.  Either way, we listen.  and perhaps that’s the beauty in it all.  A voice that makes us listen.  Perhaps that’s what an artist should strive for.

So, in honor of your birthday Charles, the three masted ship that is Six Ft. Swells raise a glass to you from New Orleans, Louisiana, Nevada City, California and Portland, Oregon.  Who knows, one of us may get in a fight or get laid tonight….now that’s a tribute.

Don’t Try,

Six Ft. Swells Press, memorial department


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All Writers are Equal, But Some Writers are More Equal than Others

Two greats duking it out above the bar.

Two greats duking it out above the bar.

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”  –Bukowski

Yes indeed, the true sign of a great bar.  Nailed up for your poetic inspiration.  Sit underneath these champions for about 3 hours swigging happy hour swill and tell me you don’t feel like writing a few lines on the old cocktail napkin and then rack up a couple mighty sins to end the evening.  Few people recognize the signs but luckily I am not one of them.  I see them shining neon loud and clear.  Many poets and writers have various ways and rituals to get in the mood, some more fun than others.  Personally, I believe the poetic punch is the finest way.  That haymaker which comes out of nowhere and knocks your dick in the dirt and from the floor you look up at the beautiful stars spinning around and around and the only necessary next movements are to order another round, get out your notebook and pen and put the words down that have been handed to you.

Under greatness,

Todd, Erin Rose bar, New Orleans, LA

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Stop. Turn Around. Do A Little Dance.

The night may be tinged with cricket song, but the driveway is muddy and my new car is streaked, and there’s blocks of clouds covering what the stars do automatically. The house is quiet, but my heart is noisy and there’s pain behind my eyes. There are no obligations to do or be anything at this hour, but I’m all out of gumption and my body has settled into a heavy inertia that feels a lot like sinking.

Maybe all this push and pull means I am on the brink of something new. Like an idea. Or a direction. Or a buried passion that I will stumble upon like a shiny penny from the year I was born. Or maybe I’m tired. Maybe Ron’s poem tonight about writer’s block hit home. Or maybe it didn’t hit anywhere near where I live. Maybe a poet doesn’t live here. Maybe I’m just a mom and wife who thinks she writes. Maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself.

One of my dearest friends is turning 70 tomorrow. I’m pretty sure she is not feeling sorry for herself. She said she is “dancing into a new decade.” This is yet another example of why I love everything about her, and how she carries herself in this world. Unlike me at this moment, she is grace and beauty, kind and deliberate in her sharing of herself and the lovely things that easily surround her. I wish I could accept her way in the world as a gift she continually gives me every time we are in touch, instead of hoping I, too, will magically have the same delicate footprints leading to myself at age 70.

The truth is, maybe this moment, here in my vacillating between love and indifference, clamor and quiet, empty and full, I have come to a fork in the road. And I’m going to take it.

Such is the way of a gypsy spirit. Without sounding distinctively familiar, we can choose to go down one path and be content with it. But we can also choose halfway down the way to turn around and go back the other way where there might be more bends, but the pathway is lined with lush green ferns.

Here is where I’m deciding to turn around. Instead of moving away from the things I love whenever I feel deflated, I need to walk uphill toward them. I’m sure that this is what my newly-70-year-old friend must do on a regular basis. She doesn’t mind stepping over all the broken branches, or that it gets damp and cool the deeper she goes in. She will come out carrying pocketfuls of gemstones she found along the way, and looking refreshed. I want to trek that path, too, because I’m pretty sure it leads to where I belong. Where friends and family and artists and music and new cars and drink and great books await me, like an audience that’s always clapping for me.

From here to 70, I, too, am now deciding to live fully engaged to all things beautiful, to build a home for myself, and toss the simple nuisances aside like that time I threw the candy wrapper over the fence at the high-school football game. I might get caught; I might have an “oh-shit” moment, but I dance on. Screw headaches and writer’s block and downtrodden mindsets and one more wrinkle around the eyes. This gypsy spirit is moving ahead. I need to keep up with my beautiful, young friend and be thankful for one more gift she just now gave me. No matter which way I go, there I am. And, yes, a poet does live here.


Filed under Poetry, The Writer's Life, Writer's Block, Writing

Stomping the Small-Town Terra

A small town Friday night in the foothills of the grand Sierra Nevada Mountains, the town is less than 12,000 the county under 100,000.  It is a very communal experience anyway you cut it.  It’s been weeks now since I’ve been out.  Shameful yes, but my body has been butchered and most nights of mine are not fit for rabid dogs.  The moon is incredibly full this evening and I take notice.  I’m one with the weirdness that this orb throws out.  Some people don’t believe in the power of a full moon and eventually they pay a heavy price.  Teenage daughters disappear, strange rhythmic drumming comes from the rivers edge and all of the servants seem happy.  Yes indeed, this is what someone means by total confidence.  But that is not me tonight, nor any of my friends.  We were simply a merry band out for a couple nightcaps and joy.  When this full moon is over, we will be sad, alone and dupes.  That my darlings is a difficult combination to rationalize in the morning.

Everything started out simply, brilliantly, conversation, drinks and laughter.  Who wouldn’t want that for there favorite son?  We played music and laughed and pointed out faults in others.  It was an easy time.  But we had to move on.  Let me state categorically now that, “moving on” in a full-moon is NEVER a good idea and any son-of-a-bitch who suggests it should be cast out into the night to be eaten by werewolves or get crack addicts as roommates, who tell you, “of course I can cover the bills”.

You always can judge the evening by the volume level of the music that is playing.  In this case we were trapped by a less than enthusiastic crowd, terrible jukebox players and fucked up hillbillies and Jersey Shore look-a-likes.  No Otis Redding, no Temptations, no Zeppelin, no AC/DC, only Creed, hip hop. and flat-out garbage.  I understand that this is a subjective statement, however, I also believe that all music lovers are created equal but some music lovers are more equal than others.  Rage and yell at me all you want but I guarantee that I can pick this best song for you to dance to your sweetheart with.  It’s just something I have always done.  I am committed to music, especially when it comes to setting the mood or creating it.  There have been moments in my life that I am not proud of when I have completely destroyed an “intimate” moment because the music that was playing was not right, thus I flipped the album, tape or changed songs.  I’m not saying I was right, I’m just saying, I only did it to enhance the experience.  I always hoped the girl would stick around to side 2.

Well, the moon is full and we have been suckered.  After roaming the bars and hearing “Sweet Home Alabama” 6 times.  We decide to move on, another bar, another round.  Finally, we find a place with beautiful women.  We begin our engagement.  Talk, laugh, buy, laugh, talk more.  There  is a live band in the basement, the lead singer, she invites us to her show personally.  We all look at her tits and say, we’ve wanted to hear some live music so we might as well stay.  Now we are at the venue and the crowd is sparse.  No big shots, no sluts, no fighters, no nothing.  Just the girl and her band, though she is gorgeous and seductive, and we are sure she wants to fuck one or two of us.  But the reality is  that I am standing at the bar and a stunning blonde begins to talk to me, shake her ass and flip her hair. We talk and laugh and move closer towards one another.  We laugh and drink and order more drinks and wonder what this whole world has meant without one another.  My friends are sitting at the table and drinking their drinks.  The band is playing their tunes and I feel good about supporting them.  A dollar goes a long way in the music industry.

When the time comes, the beautiful blonde who I have been buying drinks and engaging with asks me, “have you met my boyfriend?”, “I have not” I say.  He happens to be the bartender that has taken my  money over the last couple hours.  He smiles and shakes my hand and begins to chat me up as well.  Immediately, I understand the beauty of their roll and the commitment to each other.  I can’t fault them for it.  I can fault them for doing me this way though.  Don’t take a tender heart and throw into the gutter.  If you are going to give me a show, give me a show, if you are going to give me a refuge, give me a refuge.  Don’t half ass my salvation.  I had always thought that I was golden and separate from the ravages of commonality.  She suckered us Bubba, get used to it.  I think about this while I walk back to the table convinced that this music and bar suck and it’s time to go.  If I can stand there for hours and spend all my money in the hopes of getting a hand job from a girl, then I am mistaken.  This is the serious business that time and tide don’t wait for.  The shyster alcohol couple know this.  Serious money remember that.

The girl I spoke to tonight had NO problem, batting the eyelashes and touching the shoulder, knowing that eventually she and her boss would triumph.  Think about this my man.  They believe us to be idiot, dupes.  and we are.  If a beautiful girl encourages you to buy more drinks, winks at the bartender and tells you how handsome/beautiful you are, stay away.  Thank them, drink the free drink and look for love outside of this environment.  One more thing, if you EVER find someone who does not like Otis Redding……leave them…immediately.  This is the truth that we shall speak.

Now we should wind this bullshit up, indeed.  The night is young and I wish to fall in love….even if its 3,000 miles away.  Look for the signs, listen for the songs.  We went out in the savage Friday night and witnessed stuff we wouldn’t allow at a backyard Bar-B-Que in Arkansas.  But we also refined our guest list so that not just every fuck mook who felt left out had to attend.  In fact, this evening has set the course for big fun, soon come, but ONLY for those of us with champion spirit, true dedication and, of course, those of us who can keep a secret.

Walk your walk, talk your talk, but please speak to me when the moon is full and the fire feels good and close.


Todd Cirillo, poet, pirate, sucker

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Dispatch From the Islands–shipwrecks and roosters on the road

I’m sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to take me away.  Away from blue crystal water, away from white sugar sand, away from palms blowing in the breeze and alligators waiting for a mistake.  My body is exactly as I believe it was born to be…bronze…golden…thin, beautiful and wind-worn.  The product of many hours wandering beaches and back country mangrove swamps.  Of swimming first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening.  The view of a sunset in the tropics is best seen while immersed in water; pool or otherwise.  I wonder which way to go but ultimately I don’t care.  There is a tremendous beauty in having one’s feet in the sand, sunglasses on, body to the earth and heart to the sun that can make a person smile and feel healthy and free.

A pirate at home

I’ve spent half a month down in the Keys and splashing in the Gulf of Mexico.  I have sailed, snorkeled, kayaked and swam my way through this beauty.  It’s difficult for me to leave.  A land of Hemingway, Buffett, Williams, Hunter S. Thompson and many others with the constitution to wade out beyond the breakers.  The Keys have been the transitional tropical buddha that I knew they would be.  A gorgeous flash of absolute brilliance and truth thrown right in my smiling face.  I mean can you really imagine a place where the sun is always shining, the moon is always full, pirates have claimed as their own, salvage crews drag the ocean for all our lost hearts.  Can you imagine spending every day, wandering beaches and listening to waves; wearing only a pair of shorts or swim trunks?  And loving it?  Feeling perfectly at ease on the road.  Wandering and changing locations multiple times.  Chasing the sunset and never stopping.  That’s the key…some can take a vacation and say “oh honey, that was lovely but I’m happy to be home.”  To do what?  Take out the garbage, change the cat box, watch the news and tell stories of what it was like then…if you did anything at all back then….back then. Back then.  Some people love to unpack, check their 5 days worth of mail and turn on Wheel of Fortune.  I hate to unpack and often I will not do it for 4-5 days following travel.

Days ago, I wrote this in the black of night while the palms were blowing and the moon was full.  Last night, I spent the evening swimming in my pool and drinking Budweiser while listening to the Doors’ song “The End”.  Which can be a fine way to prepare for another round of travel….movement….onward…into grand oblivion.  Come sunrise I shall be in search of another beach to see if the waves sound any different than the ones I’ve been listening to over the last week.  I will also be back on the ocean.  Once again, sailing towards the third largest living reef in the world.  This is poetry in its purest form.  Clean.  Honest.  Unforgiving.  Dangerous.  Uncontrollable.  It is where I am comfortable and alive and I have been completely alive since I put my sandals on and removed my shirt and hit the road.  I am at home here in the Keys as much as I am in the sand of any island.  I am at heart an island person.  My heart was made for this climate and this way of being.  I am one of the locals and they recognize this and treat me as such.  I get discounts and asked by tourists for directions.  I am now part of the sea and sand.  The beer is cheap, the cematary is above ground and at any moment you can find a shipwrecked Spanish galleon on the reef filled with gold, silver and emeralds and retire immeadiately to sip drinks that you did not make.  Or in an instant while floating in the saltwater, you can get eaten alive by a shark.  That’s if you feel the need for a swim but for those feeling safe walking on land minding your own, one sandal in front of the other, can find themselves in a gator’s death roll before you even knew what happened.  This is the way to live.  A land of pirates and serious penalties.

Earlier I sat in an open air bar called Schooners Wharf and listened to a band sing about Benadryl and Hard-Ons.  I drank  staring at the dark water with the Moray Eels, Man O’ Wars, Jellyfish, Sharks and other deadly beasties and smiled because I’ve earned this.  I am, after all, a man of the sea.  I have always been completely comfortable on the water.  I was born in water, lived upon the water and shall probably die on the sea.  I look at the dark water, the Tarpon swimming towards the light, and wonder, of the years of wickedness occurring on top of the water and underneath.  I wondered about hurricanes and heartbreaks.  So to listen to a mediocre band sing a bad song about cheap whiskey and worse women is fitting because no place is lonelier than the waters edge.

And so the sun came up and I began to think, as much as I’d tried tried to stop it.  It’s funny the way this world works now…all the demands and priorities that people place upon you.  The power trips and punked out assholes who swore undying friendship while back-dooring your woman.  When I experienced something much different.  Much more colorful and musical.  Eating in shacks that were painted vibrant blues, oranges, pinks and greens with roosters walking around dirt floors and music always playing.  Like in New Orleans.  The most NON-American American city there is.  Instead of “do this for us” it is “become part of this.” which is so twisted and exquisitely separate from the United States that I say “why not?”.  Everyone in New Orleans calls you “baby”; men, women, everyone.  Can you comprehend that?  How can that NOT make your day?  These two locals have more in common than not.  I suppose that is why I am forever drawn to both.

End of land gladness

When I sit on the beach, I am happy and comfortable staring at the sea.  Becoming part of it.  Becoming one with it. and accepting my fate within it.  Some days I think the only smart thing to do is to just listen to Neil Young and wade into the sea.  Forever smooth and clear like a patch of ice upon a mountain lake.  Or perhaps now that I reread my screed, I should just have fun and laugh it all off…yes indeed I believe that would be the prudent and correct path to travel.   Hell, it could be worse, I could be deprived of Otis Redding songs or Julie Valin poems.  In an hour or so, I shall be a man on the move again…further up the Keys, stopping where ever I feel it, as long as I make my boat on time.

Now I board the plane to seat 24F, window seat.  I drink a Vodka & Seven with a side of Ativan in an effort to remain under the palms; feet in the sand, ocean singing hello.  As we rise from the beach to the Gulf, I see the torquoise blue below fade into  emerald green which eventually turns black.  I feel my tan beginning to fade.  I watch the ice in my glass melt and I swear to god Neil Young comes on my IPod!  “Expecting to Fly” no shit….I double check the life vest under my seat and pay attention to where the inflatable rafts are stored and estimate how many of the mini bottles of rum I can throw into my backpack.  There may be a chance I’ll be swimming again very soon.

–Your island guide

Todd Cirillo


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Hey Pig


I’m sitting on the floor of my house.  My back hurts and the room has a slight spin to it.  I find humor in the stupidest things.  Like saying the word PIGGY out loud.  I am of course listening to live versions of NIN song “Piggy”  Nothing can stop me now.  Ya you. I’m watching the moon and your movements.  Isn’t that comforting?  Fuck no!  Who would want someone saying that they are watching your movements?! It’s terrible and disgusting.  But if you are into that, please email me…that was just a side note between me and the perverts.  You came here to read poetry and poetic discords.  Of Course, so we should provide you with your desire.  The poetry is the hard part, the discord is the sticking point, the recreational drug use is the glue.  Why not?  Our children will thank us someday. I’ve seen more nights of pure blood and heartbreak than sunflowers and happy endings.  And you know that children love sunflowers…it’s a fact.

I’ve decided to cut my hair off tonight.  Then I realized that I’ve already cut it off.  Isn’t that spetacular?  I think so, but then again, you are probably far above me with your intellect and pretty looks….It’s ok, I have free beer here so that about evens it out, doesn’t it?.  Well truth is, that I paid for it, but if I have to compete with your good looks then fuck it, I’m gonna try to stack the deck in my favor, it’s how the wicked champion over the dumb.  Nothing personal.  That’s how we look at the stars.  Everyone wants poetry…”oh my good man…recite me a poem…read me a poem…write a poem about me.”  I understand where you are coming from and my question is why?  Why do I need to write something for you?  Because I’m lonely?  Because you deserve it?  Well, my sweetness I’ll give you a poem that you deserve.  Enjoy it, tell your friend but don’t get upset with me because of the language I’ve used…I’ve already cashed the check.  Perhaps I am running beyond the scope of propriety?

I’m here and I don’t know why.  I can’t hear the ocean, I cannot wear my shorts and sandels all year long.  I don’t know about this place anymore.  Don’t get me wrong, when I have 12 beers and listen to the Beach Boys, I’m right here with you all.  But it’s the hangovers that kill me.  I hear one note of Little Duece Coupe and I’m gonna kill someone.  and that’s another thing, I have never seen any place more ready to sue someone else…so I’m sure I’ll be sued by someone for something because I’m telling you this outloud.  I don’t even live in southern california for chrissakes, but for everyone back east.  California means sunny beaches, surfing and the Beach Boys.  Purity.  Innocence.  Long skirts.  Well we know that is not the case!  Just look at where I live…a goddamn foothill town that last year got more snow than goddamn Michigan.  Think about that folks…..Michigan!  I know it sucks huh?  But we’ve got the song “California Girls” and you don’t, so FUCK YOU!  Listen to that with a cold beer between your legs and you cannot help but think about running out to sunny California!   That I suppose is why I live in California….that and the Doors.  The Eagles can suck it…but I admit “the Long Run” is one helluva coke song.    Only in California.

So I understand that we were supposed to be talking about poetics….well, I suggest reading your own tea leaves, buying a book called “The Distance Between” from Amazon and crawling up with someone you can have sex with tonight because really what else do you have?  No one is comfortable in their skin these days without AtiVan and Xanex, we’ve all got kids we wished had other dads, and the tide doesn’t wait for us.  Nothing does.  Perhaps if this were 1923 someone would wait at the train depot in some small town of apple pies but these days no one rides the trains, except Matt Amott, one man against a generation of high flyers.  There is nothing to keep us safe and nothing to keep us happy anymore.  So what can we do you say?  well let’s start with ideas…who has them and who is willing to jump into them.  we all can make a movement happen.  We all can build the tower of fun, if we just step forward and buy a round.  There is no end, a good friend once told me that.

Well now is the time of night, we listen to “Dark End of the Street”.  If you haven’t heard it, then you haven’t drank Malt Liquor and stepped out, if you have…well then I know you are dancing to the beauty of pure soul.

Anyway it’s a fine evening and why should I bring it down?  Everyone will find love.  Everyone will find happiness.  Everyone will cash in their chips…I only hope I have more chips than you.

Talk to you another night…

yours deeply,

Todd Cirillo, Esq.



Filed under Drinking, Poetry, Publishing, Small Press, The Writer's Life, Uncategorized, Writer's Block, Writing