Cigarette

Clear as Spring dawn

I remember Miss Nance’s

Second grade classroom,

When she yanked me by the arm

Out of my little hardwood desk

And dragged me to the cloak room to

Beat me within earshot of all.

Tight-lipped and stoic in her labor she

Added nothing to the racket. Nor did I.

Just took it.

 

That afternoon we

Huddled under our desks,

Warned to look away from

The tall widows that opened over the

Roof tops fanned out below our hill

Toward the river.

Warned that the flash from the

Bomb that the Russians would surely

Drop on our mills

Would blind us.

 

Under the desk, still sore,

I wished they’d come.

Come and drop their damned bomb.

Catch her looking-

Blind her in front of the room

Burn her into a pillar of dust

Which they said we would all be

On that day.

Which the priest says you are now

If you listened to him.

 

I lay there and promised myself

My first cigarette after school;

Not connecting till later that I wanted to

Put it out in Miss Nance’s eye

The way my old man had done to the

Mill foreman who called him a little Dago

That time at the union picnic.

No, just then I only wanted the cigarette.

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The Mud Smith’s Home

Someone curious once asked, “Are you a Gypsy?”
“No. But I work with mud.” He replied.


A peacock called Bukowski
lives with him on top a knoll
where brick kilns loom like Celtic altars.
The shards of failed pots pave the way
to where we shared coffee and strange tales.

Inside the house
the walls display clay mugs
and plates scrawled
with symbols of no special device
which invite, then defy translation.

We strolled and spoke as freely
as old friends again meeting,
while two lazy bees still sluggish from winter
drifted weightily about our heads
sweetly buzzing with Swedenborg and Gurdjieff.

As we looked at the patch of field
where the Gypsies once camped,
we wondered
if they would come back.
He said, “I would tell them
‘I work with mud’
And if they didn’t already know
I’d show them how.”

-By Gerald Musinsky

A few years ago, on a different blog, I wrote an appreciation of my friend Gerry upon his death a decade before. I found this while going through some ancient papers from when we worked together on a New Plays Festival. He had scribbled notes on the back of the typed copy. I don’t know if this was ever published as my copy of his “Steel Living” is…misplaced somewhere on the four floors among the hundreds of books that give me some structure. Assume it’s here somewhere unless one of the girls took off with it as an artifact of a place and time. If not them, I blame the cats. They are clever imps and spend too much unsupervised time wandering the stacks. Pretty sure Lohman can read-he plays dumb, but I’m not buying.

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic

The drear gray of another rainy April morning

Almost made me long for February when darkness

At least had the decency to hang around awhile.

The back bar was full of loud nurses off the night shift

At the hospital up the street.

Front bar was us, the shiftless,

Remembering when a morning’s drinking felt earned

By a hard night’s work.

A familiar face at the end of the bar,

I raise a glass, he nods a lifted eyebrow.

Dated his sister years ago.

City detective; don’t know if he’s

coming off or going on.

Vodka and OJ-perfect cover.

Used to call them screwdrivers,

Don’t know if they still do.

This isn’t the kind of place where drinks have names.

There was an empty stool beside me but he stood

Leaning-here but not here-eyes covering the door.

Don’t ask how I know, but he keeps a boyfriend

In an apartment a few blocks up the hill.

Cute kid. College student.

Too young for him but who am I to say?

Both TV’s were muted against the chatter

But you could see they were talking about drugs;

The words OPIOID EPIDEMIC slid across the screen

Like a banner pulled behind a plane.

There were pictures of pills and flashing red lights

And serious faces trying to explain the scourge.

Don’t know what’s so hard, he said.

You feel shitty.

You take a pill.

You feel better.

How tough is that?

The drugs ain’t the problem, he said.

It’s the feeling shitty.

That’s what we gotta get a handle on.

Outside you could reach up and touch the dark, pressing clouds.

It might snow yet, the fucker.

He Remembered to Eat

He remembered to eat, at least.

Two rice cakes with peanut butter.

He did it in front of her as she was leaving for the gym

So she could see.

She kissed him on the cheek and he’d playfully grumble.

Once gone, he would swallow the pills that she didn’t know about

Nor what he did to get them.

They would make

The day tolerable.

No, that was wrong…

They would make the day livable.

No, that’s the same thing.

They would make the day…enjoyable.

He would be right with the world by the time she got home.

She would sometimes mention his good moods

As if complimenting a puppy for not shitting on the rug.

How happy she was to have him back she’d say

Though he never remembered being anywhere.

He’d watch the clock and with every blink of the passing morning feel the

Darkness begin to lift, the grays become tie-dyed.

Feel yesterday’s regrets dissolve and tomorrow become nothing.

He would try to remember the feeling. This fearless thisness, and try to

Recapture it later, without the pills.

He tried that always.

It never worked.

The darkness always lurked, like a thief hiding

Until everyone was asleep.

Those times when she lay her head on his chest as she once had

With no direction, meaning or pretense and he could

Smell her sweet scalp through the shampoo.

Those times he wondered why it wasn’t enough.

Why nothing was ever enough.

Flea Market

Homage

He had brought forty bucks with him

But couldn’t imagine what he’d spend it on.

He followed her up one aisle and down the next

Passing tables burdened with crap that

Had the church not held a flea market would have been tossed.

She had bought an occasional table that they had no place for

And a single place setting that almost looked like their good China.

He handled a couple of Civil War books that he already had

And a broken faux Tiffany lamp that might have been worth fixing

If it had been real.

He was ready to slip out the side door for a smoke

When the Barbies caught his eye;

Dozens of them on a back table-houses, cars, outfits.

He moved in that direction and picked one up.

Then another, looking for something until she caught up.

What are you going to do with those? She whispered low.

She caught the glint in his eye.

For Chissakes!, she said.

This is a church you know. The basement,

But still a church!

He laughed and bought six for five bucks each.

She wouldn’t walk with him to the car.