Johnny Retread and the Hubcap Queen

She calls me an outstretched Adonis
wrong in her assertion
and her stubborn choice to be here
with fingers burned
by a curling iron
for naught.

Ten pounds overweight
of my usual rotundity
due to desperate drive-thrus
in a land bereft of lunch spots
I feign a layman's ignorance
of ancient Greek mythology
though the grade school I attended
emphasized its worth.

The sheets are overdue by weeks
but she pays no mind
as I smirk and let her acclimate
to the comfort we're reduced to.

So what
say what
you don't want to be in print?
It's the only way to outlast sand.
Your make-up is a waste
since my god is also false.

An Overshared Surrender

Our code names are defunct
having died with our crash
replaced by mental images
of aerial maps poorly drawn
by a hostage cartographer
on useless blueprints
and sandwich wrappers.
It plays on the brain
how long it will take
to sell all those secrets
to enemy ears
and in what sequence.
Name, rank, and serial number
are never enough for inquiring minds.

Uanswered questions
posed by oblivious allies
tighten their death grips
on an unshaven neck
while wondering in retrospect
if the high altitude recipe
printed on the batter box
would have produced
better pancakes this morning.

Erroneous Endeavors in Rocketry

No wasted movement.
No wasted motion.
Fluid in the way
you squander your days.
"Be water, my friend,"
said the dead martial artist.

To wait on reinforcements
is an error in your tactics.
The benchmark moved west.
Redact the best actress.
The blood of an Englishman's
what you smell now
while meeting your muse
in premature dreams.
Angry:  She's evasive by nature.


Winner Take None

"Ouch," she says
washing up before bed
under the assumption
that I'd tossed her toothbrush
after weeks of absence
stubbornness on both ends to blame.
I tell her I'd saved it
out of sight
since it's easier that way
and pull it from its place
behind the dusty mirror.
When you live alone
it's best not to pretend.

I run out the door in the morning
donning dirty boots
for a day of dirty work
whether or not they deserve it.
When I return twelve hours later
to the sound of crumbling brick
landing on cracked linoleum
I beeline for the bathroom.
"Ouch," I say
when I see that it's back
in the medicine cabinet.
When you live alone
it's best not to pretend.

Currently reading:
"The Disappearance of Gargoyles" by Mary Makofske.


Randy Resurrection

My father taught me
the word "turgor"
at an age too young
for most to understand it.
He's always been good
at breaking down the language
for ease of simpler access--
perhaps from his career
with the mentally retarded.

I think of his functional definition now
while watering a wounded aloe
on the kitchen windowsill
with hope that its turgor returns.
Its longest leaf was guillotined
a few weeks ago when a well-meaning guest
opened the window without installing
the beer bottle prop that's kept in the corner
atop trim painted thick with decades of white.
The glass came crashing down minutes later
during our preoccupation.
After she'd gone I noticed the smeared pane
and the severed tips of the gift a girl had given
to liven up my quarters in her simple, subtle way.
I salvaged the clear mess and rubbed it on my calloused feet
in an effort to make use of its medicinal properties
but it didn't work much magic.
Rubbing blood on another wound never does.
I felt guilty for the accidental amputation
and foolish for that shame.

Watering it now--a pint glass every Sunday--
feels like an insufficient apology
unaccepted by the scowling sun.

Another week has passed
another pint's been poured
another chance is wasted
on a stagnant theme:


Dreaming in Damascus

So the boys are swinging
their denimed dicks around
in hunting tale conversation
at the mouth of the job trailer
after wrong egg sandwiches and spat-in coffee
brought by a senseless apprentice.
We're all choking on our smoke
from laughing so hard
at scary shit
since that's what we do for a living.

Then this humble motherfucker
who's made me like him quickly
chimes in with his painfully true bullshit
about hating the sin and loving the sinner
that he lives too well to deny.
Says his son shot a blue jay once
fucking around with a pellet gun.
This righteous prick in a button-down
made sure that once was enough.
He told the kid that they use what they kill.
Made him pluck it, cook it, eat it.
When the overzealous marksman
asked his old man if he'd feast as well
the answer was as expected
from a guy you'd follow blindly into battle
armed only with torches and wrenches.

He told us heathens sucking down nicotine
like it'd save us from the tools and pipes
waiting inside for our extended break to end
that the bird tasted like shit.
The rest of the crew cracked up
but I saw through the haze we'd created:
This guy, bound for promotion
in more ways than one
was about to see me at my best
whatever that is
God damn him.

Currently reading:
"The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton.


Shower Power

I fully accept April
once I see the clusters
of daffodils greeting morning
along roadside lawns.
They remind me of prior beginnings
youthful calves with just enough visible thigh
to stay respectable
protruding from a floral dress
bent skillfully above a pool table
at the dive bar next door.
I don't go there these days
six years after moving to this town
but that yellow procession
still promises a chance.

She had a funny name for them
that landed in the title of a playlist I made for her
before I went to work beside Lake Ontario
for six weeks, though I can't seem to find
that disc for the life of me.
I won't tell you the name of either.
My ambition outlasted reality.

I've been parked midway to work
for six minutes, my thumb sore from typing
in an early stage of carpal tunnel syndrome
induced by a cell phone upgrade.
Illnesses or none
it's time to start my Saturday
in a realm I've not betrayed.


A Mule and a Monkey

Good neighbors turn heads.
The best mend their fences.
Live in a bubble
where nothing gets shattered
as those spread too thin
will poke while they scrape
together the clumps
of stew that still matter.

We can watch our young men
shoot death in their arms
and practice our frowns
for the next time we'll need them
or did this disrupt you
enough to disarm
a phrase that takes lives?:
"I'm no brother's keeper."


Deliberate Demarcation

I'd dropped off a coworker
from out of town
at a roach-whore hotel
since his truck
had been impounded
due to woes we all ignore.
Rain was pelting
the foreign metal
of my vehicle
with such force
that I turned off the radio
to give it the reverence
it deserved.

In the median
of Monticello's Broadway
two women stood
under umbrellas
waiting for impolite traffic
to pass
still in their workday's pantsuits.
They were trying like hell
to cross the thoroughfare
en route to a congregation
forming on the porch
of a bargain rate funeral parlor
in a town that died
with the advent of air conditioning.
No one had halted
their means of egress home
to let the mourners pass.
Microwaved dinners were calling.
Television had reality to share.
Spouses were poised
to fail expectations.

I pressed the brake pedal
and waved apologetically
for a race that forgets
where it's going.

The highway entrance
couldn't come
quickly enough.


Winter White and Eskimos

Most times he nods above his pint
from ninety-degrees away
his back or mine to the wall
depending on whose luck is better.
Tonight we're seated side-by-side
since all other stools
and pretty ears are taken.

It takes awhile for him to kick it off
but by my third we're talking shop
from opposite sides of the union line.
There's a heaviness in his eyes
that even his rare prevailing wage gig
can't remedy.
Neither of us mention
the harmlessly psychotic spinster
who's taken us both home once--
honor amongst thieves;
God protecting drunks.

A female prison guard
seated to his right
grabs his arm and blathers on
without a break for air
and the barkeep grins
at my smiling eyes:
"Better him than me."

A few songs later
after one on the house
for his listening servitude
we go out for a smoke
unintentionally together.
He disappears around the corner
so I assume he's stumbled home
though he slants back into sight
explaining his relief
in the alley or the trees
safely out of view.
The quintessential gun-shy move
comes as no surprise.
Neither does his failure
to say goodbye
once he's downed his last cheap lager
but that's a flaw I overlook
while leaving shortly after.


Carapace Arithmetic

Unsure of my intentions
I sent her the article
that had fallen in my lap
about plans for that dilapidated attempt
at a diner to be torn down.
An eyesore, the journalist called it.
The locals agreed
that the riddance would be good.

It took her a day to respond
but she did so in multiple modes
of modern miscommunication.
The third caught me
like a wide left turn
made by a hungover motorist.
Rolling off gin-dreams
in dirty Sunday sheets
her name was the last
I'd expected to see
on the face of my digital captor.

"Why'd you send it?"
she asked, clearly in the same state.
"Closure" was the best
I could come up with at the time.

I told her how I remembered
watching her wash the coffee pots
with salt water as she stood
behind the counter
her back to me so innocently
unaware of the treachery
a boy of 21 can deal--
the latter half of the recollection
implied, though omitted.

Through teeth flecked
with late-night fried chicken
I congratulated her newfound comfort
reiterating my speech on refusal to settle
when her turn for pleasantries came.
Concepts like signs
that say "Will Build to Suit"
and the merit
of increased surface area
brushed across my brain
before realizing that she'd hung up.

When she called back
three minutes later
I didn't answer.

The building will be gone soon.
Marlboro, like the two souls
seventeen miles apart
will be better off.
Hydrogen peroxide
and cold water
will get out the rest.