Not Black & White
Joey was swimming in Sulphur Creek,
mother can tell because his eyes are yellow,
and he reeks of rotten eggs. Joey protests
that it’s hot and she won’t give him ten
dollars for a pool pass good for the summer.
What’s ten dollars anyway? Mother don’t
work and father supports her and six kids.
It’s the early 60’s and Joey swears he saw
the priest over at Saint Jude’s pull
a girl out of the confessional by her hair.
The priest was mad because he couldn’t
hear the girl. She’s a bit retarded
and the old priest is miserable. He talks about
money all the time, and what can a pagan baby
do with ten dollars? Well, Father Bingodian
from the outer Slobobian missions is with
us today, and I’m sure Father will share
his stories of how evil idolaters sacrifice
poor pagan babies and how ten dollars,
the price of sinful pleasures to our young people,
how a measly ten bucks can save one pagan
baby from the fires of perdition. Now,
don’t you feel guilty, Joey? Mother says
she’s donating the pool pass money to save
a pagan baby from the sulphur pits of hell.
She sits at the kitchen table watching Johnny
Carson. It’s late Friday night and Joey is
watching with her. Dean Martin is singing
“Make the World Go Away” and acting drunk.
Mother sips her Windsor and water and
watches Dino raise his arms like
Christ welcoming sinners. Joey is
still mad at his mother for donating his
pool-pass money. He hides a smile, fighting
to stay mad at mother who’s falling for the slop
ol’ Dino is dishing, making the Friday
night ritual complete: mix the water
in the whiskey, add some freezer-burnt ice,
light a menthol coffin nail, lean forward
on that table and watch Dino in his
double-breasted coat, shirt open at the collar
revealing a chain of gold or silver,
though it’s difficult to know for sure.
She’s too tired to care about things
not black & white.
For That One True Sentence
Joyce had bouts of poverty.
Poe died dead broke. Federal writers
got a New Deal. Remember Hemingway
and his long-suffering first wife, Hadley?
It was her trust fund that launched him
to Paris. He drank rum St. James
in the cafes while she shivered for lack
of a winter coat. His second wife’s uncle
gave him the dough to go on safari.
Fitzgerald couldn’t buy a break,
falling in love with Zelda who held-out
for success, crazy and jealous of its source.
This is being written between questions
of when will I get to cutting the grass
and fixing the roof. There’s a cafe
not far from here, a place I’d find as
comfortable as a hemorrhoid the day
after chili and beer. Some work devoid
of stimulus-gratis, others are successful
stereotypes, lapping up the milk of pretense,
cats paws scratching the hands that feed them.
And what does it matter?
We all pay the vulgar coinage
for that one true sentence.
To a Place
in wait of day to spread
rumors of color.
Let all truth rain
down in bloodless drops
from leaden skies:
over water not silver blue,
boyhood days ago.
flat, wormy taste,
as color is:
a smoky fire,
the dingy ash
of white lies
Let them rise,
bubbling foul spring,
from gray watershed
eyes to a place
of all truth,
to a place
of all lies,
past blank stares
into albescent skies.