Lust a la Cart

But maybe
baby we're getting too old
for this.
Rubbed raw, thirsty
and all lips are swollen.
Cracking bones
and sore quads
from what once
came too easily.
The sweat runs down walls
far too thin
for our neighbors.

Three times a night?
Cut back to twice.
Save a shot for later.
Utilize the flavor saver.
Do we kiss our mothers
with these mouths?
It's a conundrum.

But the curves
of the small
of your back
fit my hands
like the duct-taped
in a poet's
rape kit:
A wig
and some panties.

The flowers have left
the building with Elvis.


Paint-By-Number Conflagration

There was no imminent threat.
Nothing was behind schedule.
The stores that lined the mall corridor
weren't going anywhere
as I strolled to kill some time.
But when I saw the teacher
who most impacted my life
at the troubled age of ten
when family court was heated
my legs turned into rockets.

There he was, eighteen years later
but not that much had changed.
If anything he looked better.
His barrel belly had disappeared.
Tufts of black hair poked from beneath
the sides of his baseball cap
without a single white reminder.
A gold chain stood out clearly against
the black skin of his neck while he
smiled at the cashier, handing over
what was due. And I, the eternal coward
couldn't give it to him.

He would've seen the tattoos;
perhaps a few lines too deep.
My beard needed a trim
and my shirt was good at
fitting: "Poetic Justice"
it declared across my chest
the ironic smirk sapped from
its wearer, the cynical tables turned.

"Who are you again?"
"What was your major?"
"Where'd you go to college?"
"Why do your hands feel so rough?"
"When did you go wrong?"
"How did you waste such potential?"
It was a barrage of shameful questions
that my colon couldn't handle.
His mouth would not deliver them
though his eyes would tell the truth.

I sped away, a thief of fate
promising to stop as consolation
if he was still there on my way back.
He wasn't.
Opportunity's not stagnant.
It comes and takes its victims
leaving the rest to wonder
and make deals with gods
and demons for a chance
at bitter redemption.
The loudest aren't the weakest;
the ones who go silently are.

My truck served as no refuge.
I turned on the radio
to try to drown them out
but the women laughed in unison:
"The scalpel's in your hand."


Fishing, Mostly Waiting

She's got this smile
reserved for the luckiest
where the corners of her mouth
shoot out to jagged points
as if jerked
by invisible hooks--
like the tips of flower petals;
like arrowheads hitting their mark--
but that's not the case.
Somehow I'm the culprit
and the target
and enthralled.

There's a handwritten list
in my ribcage
of things sworn off for good.
I can't tell you
or you'll assume where you stand
but rest assured
as best you can
with the knowledge
of time's reckoning:
the law of averages
comes through in the clutch.

Words like 'serendipity'
mean more to the starving.

Currently reading:
"The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla" by Stephen King.


The Nightly Milking

"Do you want your keys back?"
she asks from her doorway
at what I know will be the last time
she sees me intentionally.
Small towns have only so many
dark corners in so many bars
where drunks can hide.

"No. Just don't lose my father's ring,"
I reply, screwing up my face
in a gesture that confused even myself.
He'd given it to me shortly before
going AWOL for five years.
There was a long period of time
when it had more power
than it should've.
I'd put it on the chain before
I headed out of town for two months
and what I knew would be the end
of many things. Funny how we mortals
insist on playing out what's predetermined.
Tending the universe-- what a crock.

She closed the door behind her
before I even got back to my ride.
See Spot run. Watch Mike whine.
Listen to the slurred songs
of a sick and unwed sailor.

Not that it narrows it down any
but I'd just returned from playing
"Angie" on the jukebox when the
newest voice of reason chimed in
with a precious morsel of the unpalatable.
"You're not gonna find your wife at a bar,"
said the whiskey on the rocks in what was
a backhanded consolation and the most
profound sentence stabbed into my ears in months.

It dawned on me like a cheap shot of grain alcohol:
I haven't had a functional relationship
since I was seventeen.
And it's not them. It's me. It has to be
or I wouldn't be here.
Or, I wouldn't be here.

I need to tell my father about those five years.
Something leads me to believe that he already knows.
Something suspects that that's why he left.
That ring with my name inscribed in its gold
was supposed to remind me to remain my own man.
Sometimes a circle binds more than its angles.
Sometimes a ring holds more than it should
at least to those who give it
to all the fine messiahs
and trust the wrong people
with the right things
making the worthy wish we'd never met.

Don't be late for your date with the sun.


Said Sotto Voce

Like partisan fighters
through fences at night
they sneak back to see
the wounds they've inflicted
where roiled lungs lurk
in the mess that's been made
of years' worth of detritus
peddling flesh.

Take no prisoners.
Give no quarter.
Make the most
of the rest of the minced.
No warspoil's worth
our sacrificed sanity.
Play them in close
like they're Aces and Eights.

Within the parameters
and outside the box
is where it's still safe
to diddle Eve's seeds.
Lies like the Husband Stitch
stole through the blight
betting all lips
for this heads'll roll.

Wore out a welcome
in this town too soon.
A brace of pistols sits on the bed.
Anything solid's been bolted down hard.
Nobody moves and no one gets hurt.

Currently reading:
"The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass" by Stephen King.


...and the High Horse You Rode In On.

An oblivious colleague
blasts Skynyrd's "Simple Man"
on his SmartPhone
as we sit in the break room
at four in the morning.
I'm brought back
to when an old friend's
cover band used to dedicate
that song to me at gigs.
Seems ages ago.
Seems I haven't listened.
Two hours 'til daylight.
I give up on repentance
and go for a puff outside
where it's seemingly safe
from accusatory lyrics
and failed endeavors.

As I light up near the smoke shack
an old-timer reads my face.
"To be a pipefitter," he says
through nicotine-stained teeth
"you must marry, divorce
and wander the earth
for forty years."
He doesn't get the laugh
he was seeking with his proverb.
The prospect makes me cringe
and consider a career change.

I suck the butt down quickly
and walk back to the trailer.
It's silent in there now.
My book provides refuge
for the remaining three hours
of our shift.
My mind is relatively numbed
except for the time
when a passage I read
sends an old pang of guilt
to the tips of my boots.
I slept with my roommate's
girlfriend in college.
Because I could
and not get caught.
Karma lasts a lifetime.
The wrenches take their toll.
It wasn't a fair trade
but when has it been

The day crew comes like cavalry.
We pour out through the gates.
There above the cooling tower
a slew of sharp-winged sparrows
dance where steam usually rises
from this nuclear power plant.
This nomad thinks back
to our almost-matching tattoos
and wonders if she'd do the same.

The problem's not their leaving.
It's that they always will be there.

Currently reading:
"When God Winks at You" by SQuire Rushnell.


26 Lightyears Apart

Soon I'll sleep well
even alone.
There is no doubt
in my mind
that I earned my pay
last night.
The twelve-hour shift
was brutal;
true blood money
for a change.

When we finally came out
a buddy slapped my back
to celebrate the end.
My sweat splattered
off me like I'd been
dunked in a pool.
"Gross," he said
glaring at his palm
in disbelief.
My feet could barely
leave the ground
but I felt myself crack
that smile that people
seem to like
from a distance.
We all rehydrated
as best we could
and waited for
7 am to deliver us
to our respective beds.

But there are other mornings
not so chipper and promising.
There are times of downright
hopelessness where I wonder
why I bother doing anything at all.
Sometimes there's a new cure
for that, though.
All it requires is cell phone service.

And someday
when I can convince myself
that Josh is old enough to get it
I'll tell him that after my roughest days
of work I'd climb in my truck
and play the last voicemail
our father had left me
of my baby brother babbling
and asking where Michael is
in a timbre so innocent
that it's a marvel we share eyes.

It hasn't ceased to work yet.
It always brings me back to center--
"Stay in the middle of the road,"
as my last therapist said.
There's someone I'll have to
guide someday
even if I don't always know
the answer to the kid's question:
"Where are you, Michael?"
He's still hiding
but he'll be back.