Untenable

 

Nem pomes? She asked.

What?

Nem. Pomes? I see that one page only has five lines on it.

Figured pomes.

Yeah, poems, he said as she, beside him, flipped through a magazine

Tearing out coupons.

He let his gaze lift from the page-beyond Kleinzahler to the

Cracked plaster ceiling, where dust would work loose

When trains rumbled by.

This was untenable, he thought, squeezing his eyes tight.

He had to make a move.

If he could sober up for a week, maybe, he could figure things out.

Then, to his right, was her breast again;

Firm and round as an orange, jiggling only slightly as she flipped pages.

He lifted to see the other one-as happy and round as this one.

What? she asked.

Nothing, he said laying his head back down.

It was her house after all.

And her beer which she buys and doesn’t drink.

Wine on the weekends.

And he was, through no fault of his own,

Between paying gigs.

He put the book aside and rolled into her, mouth open

Like a blind bear cub.

She folded the magazine to hold in her right hand

And guided him home with her left.

He cupped his mouth over her tightening nipple.

Suddenly, things were tenable again.

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He should have turned in his dick

It wasn’t the flu.

She would always think everything was the flu.

There would come a day, he thought,

When he’d come stumbling in with a sucking chest wound

And she’d diagnose the flu and make tea

While he bled out.

Fuck that. She was gone now-ministering someone else.

It was probably a torn meniscus. Fucking stairs.

Had one of them before; fingered the old scar on his left knee

As the right one pulsed-swollen and hot.

‘If I knew I was gonna live this long, I’d a’ taken better care of myself’

Was something his old man used to say.

He mumbled toward the end, his old man.

Didn’t want to open his mouth to show the tumors and sores

That were already too far along to deal with.

He winked at himself-and me behind him-in the mirror.

Dressed like a million bucks he had one more score in him.

Or so he thought.

They found him beside the dumpster in the alley behind the club.

He was barefoot. The fuckers had even taken his shoes.

He was alone now-having broken with his woman last month.

Over sex.

All she wanted to do was blow him.

He wanted something more intimate;

A nice slow screw with kissing. Like that.

She wouldn’t, so he let her go.

When he told that to an associate

Who had gotten exactly five blow jobs in his life-

And one was from his uncle when he was a boy-

The guy looked at him like he was nuts.

‘You should have to turn in your dick’, he’d said.

He took a pill out of the bag before taping it closed.

One more or less – it will still bring two grand.

He limped out the door and took his time

On the stairs.

Turbid

CSX-CSX-CSX-CSX-CSX

Stenciled letters emblazoned in yellow

On every black coal car that roared too fast

Past his window.

CSX-CSX-CSX-CSX-CSX

He got dizzy and stopped counting at forty-nine

And just stared. Mesmerized.

But they kept passing

Until there were no more.

His vantage point so narrow he never saw the end coming.

When the rumbling subsided, the warm salty silence

Coursed through him again.

He lifted his eyes to the river beyond the tracks where something:

Ducks, geese, gulls, buzzards, crows, tow boats, was always happening.

Except now-everything blanketed in a frigid winter fog

The color of rumpled old bedsheets

Revealing nothing but the darkly spectral fingers of denuded maples

And the big sycamore

Sliding in and out of focus

on the near mud bank.

Still he stared, willing something to happen.

It probably wouldn’t.

As would happen at times like this, he remembered.

He was in bed. That he knew.

But it seemed to be daylight-not night.

Was there light coming through the thick drapes,

Or was it a lamp?

He was young. Not little, little…but young.

You’re not going to like this, she said, sitting on the bed beside him;

Causing him to slide toward her.

Why was she in her underpants if it was day time?

He remembered “turbidity” from his years on the boats.

It referred to particulates-mud, sand, what have you,

Clouding the water.

Was there a similar measurement for air? Or for the fog that pulsed and pressed?

Or for memories? Or his own soul?

The more he stripped away, the cloudier everything became.

Upstairs a thump as the cat jumped off the bed

Probably smelling potato chips.

He sprinkled some small fragments on the floor.

He didn’t mind sharing.

Rapeseed Oil

Twice this month alone

I’ve read poems that allude to

Rapeseed oil.

Two different poets writing about different things.

Once, I could see.

Twice?

Or do poets all write about the same thing?

If so, what’s with the rapeseed oil?

What did I miss? Why didn’t I hear about it?

I’ll stop with the poetry for a while.

A third would be too much.

Across the way the cat pads at his bed

For what seems like hours with that stupid face he gets.

Drives me nuts until I throw a pillow at him and scream for him

To stop.

He hisses and stomps up the stairs, each loud creak

Echoing through the house.

Coffee tastes like burnt wood without half and half;

There are no more cookies and

Only ten oxys left

in the Imodium bottle in the fridge.

Enough for three days if I’m careful.

Then I have to make a move.

“Hey pastor…”

Hey pastor,

Hey pastor she cried,

Runnin’ up red-eyed and blotchy

After the service.

Lookit this she said,

Opening the postcard that had been folded in her purse.

Lookit what he sent.

He’s in Wyomin’ now, she said.

Settled up on a place, she said, hissing

Giving him no time to read the note.

He’s fixin’ fence, he says, runnin’ wire and is that walkin’ horses?

What’s he know bout that? She asked,

With his rickety knees and balky hips.

He’s a townie kid like me…and I never wanted to run off like that.

What’s to become of him?

Of me?

You mustn’t worry about him, little darlin’, the pastor said leanin’ close,

Allowin’ his gaze to hungrily crawl acrost her bodice.

The lord will pervide for them such as him.

You come with me lil darlin’, he said.

I can’t tell you what he was thinkin’, but

I allus thought you were a sweet little one.

Let us git you into the back…

Git some coffee in you….

Turtle Heart

Snapper

Took this a few hours before this guy became a base for an interesting spaghetti sauce. Because soup would have been too much of a cliche. From the period in my life when I had to eat things.

An hour after it’s been shot between the eyes-

Beheaded, hung to drain and gutted-

The snapping  turtle’s heart will still beat.

Cut from its carcass and left on the cutting board,

It will beat, regular and strong-

pumping nothing-

but air.

Until finally, frustrated with nothing to do, it stops.

Doesn’t quit;

Stops.

Old timers-Turtle Hunters- reach into holes along the mud banks of rivers,

Happy that snappers crawl up into their lairs

Head-first.

But all could tell the tale of the contrary turtle that backed in-

Catching the contrary bastard that made a habit of reaching into

Holes in mud banks.

Turtles don’t let go.

They can be caught on a hunk of rope if they’re pissed off enough to bite on it

And be hauled into the boat.

Splayed in their mud cave, they can’t be pulled out.

Shovels are brought and mud banks are torn down to rescue the hand;

Sometimes minus the thumb or finger. But rescued.

And the turtle is still soup.

The brain that makes men reach into turtle holes

Is the same that makes them go into the mines.

Because their daddy did.

Because someone has to.

Because everyone else is afraid to.

Because we’re convinced that peace must be bought

With suffering.

 

TDR-2017

February Rain

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I don’t think I’ll live through this,

He told his friend as they watched the cold rain

Glisten under the oversized fluorescents outside the window.

What?

Life.

A car pulled up to the service island dinging the bell.

His friend pulled on gloves and headed for the door.

May there never come a time when you say that with relief

Instead of dread, he said with a wink as he ducked out into the weather.