Cowboy Science

I'd guess he's in Human Resources
the way he spills himself all over the counter
well after he's been handed
his change and morning coffee.
This pencil-pusher's sweater
is a few shades sour of caramel
the color of junkie vomit.
An equal sensation is conjured
in my gut by the way he festoons himself
atop the Formica, hitting on middle-aged women
whose husbands' hands alone
make more sense
than whatever this marital brigand
is spewing at 5:43 in the morning.

Two of his underlings
enter behind me
dressed in crisp uniforms
cursing at last night's game.
My toes curl under steel tips
as I fight myself from stating
that they sound worse than the men
they're allegedly paid to guard.

I recall visiting the local prison as a kid.
They'd walk my uncle out
into a large cafeteria full of worried faces.
There was a Pepsi vending machine.
Its giant logo with its patriotic colors
is what stands out most in my mind
aside from the concertina wire I saw
from the back seat of my mother's sedan.
She told me we were visiting him at his job
and in a way she wasn't so wrong.

"I'd rather be in jail,"
the amorous civil servant says
of his day's upcoming duties
to the woman who stirred his sugar;
added his cream.
"It's death by PowerPoint presentation,"
he chortles with undue pride.

I wonder if any of these men
these hooligans with tin badges
had a hand raised in wrath
against the inmate murdered
a few years ago.
It could have been my uncle
had he not been released in the 80s
after doing 15 years.

Back in the safety of my truck
the heat vents blasting away
what remains of the frost
I take a sip of coffee
followed by my first drag
that somehow cures
the smoker's cough
for now.

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