Larkspur Press, 2009
ON MY WAY TO CHICAGO, I DECIDE TO DO SOMETHING STUPID SO I STOP AT A BAR WITH 11 HARLEYS PARKED OUTSIDE
(Shirley’s Lounge, Paducah, KY)
I was hoping to tell enough
of the right kind of bad jokes
to keep Peyote, a 6′ 7″ biker,
from unscrewing my head and chucking it
to the penned chickens in back.
His long beertab earring shot
bright neon into my eyes.
He flexed a bicep and thrust
the pelvis of a nude hula dancer
at me. Well since you seem to be out
of jokes, Peyote said, I think it’s time
you had a talk with my wife. Jujube,
honey, show this Lexington fella
“Loving Is Sharing.” And he laid
his gleaming buck knife, serrated edge
toward me, on the bar. Jujube
swept back her Burgandy hair
and wet her three lip-pins with the tip
of her tongue. She reached into
a leather case and pulled out a small child,
porcelain, sitting on a bench beside
a porcelain poodle. The girl’s blue
soulful eyes held out a heart-shaped
lollypop for the dog. But before I could
laugh the laugh that would have split my lip
and rattled my teeth like dice in a cup,
Peyote said, It’s from our Amway Precious
Moments Collection–fine bisque porcelain.
Don’t you just love these soft pastels?
And before I could swallow
the last two inches of Moosehead,
there was Amway fabric softener
and Tri-Zyme in front of me, Germicidal
Concentrate, Mint Condition Gel Bug &
Tar Remover, Wonder Mist Silicone
Rust Inhibitor. And for the missus,
Jujube said, hissing something at me
from a frosted orange bottle, Fleur
Bouquet–from our Collection Classique.
She’ll love your thoughtfulness.
They put it all in a cloth tote bag
(compliments of Amway), and I wrote
the check. Shook hands and climbed
into my red Toyota. And thought deep
into the perfectly ordinary state
of Illinois how clean I needed to become,
the urgency of shining and wiping
and buffing all the unbattered ports
of my life. Tomorrow, I said to myself,
I’ll start with a hot shower, wipe
all the yellow guts from my windshield.
But tonight, tonight, best to keep moving.
HOW TO WRITE A SAD POEM
First, hang the moon.
Position that empty socket
at zenith. Make it a December
evening, long gray spirals of dusk
Give us the bare limbs
of a sycamore—that’s a good touch
in the chill wind—though how much
better to leave one leaf twisting.
It hangs, we see now,
directly above two lovers whose breaths
rise with what must be icy words. These two, in their ponderous coats
and gloves, are beautiful
even at this distance, but they don’t touch,
because this is the sad poem.
and take their last moments
away with them forever.
(Last moments, forever—
choice ingredients in the sad poem.) The lovers have promised the occasional
email, we suspect, but we’ve all inhabited
the sad poem enough to know
that sweet intention will fall
like this sycamore’s last leaf.
When the sad poem gets weary
with the weight of its sadness,
it tries to conjure some Latin music
from a car radio, looks skyward
for a fat cardinal that will swoop
down and hop hopefully in the ice-
What the sad poem gets,
instead, is one laden cloud after another
trudging in like a funeral procession.
Then a phone rings somewhere . . .
Maybe it rings with good news.
But not for you.