His face was domed by
a high-browed bald head
that made his ears look
as if they had slipped down
six inches below their original position.
And he never went anywhere
without beaming a permanent smile
of gracious idiocy.
His wife, forever at his side,
was red-beaked with a crest
of feathery blonde hair.
Her eyes were so stiff
that, when she blinked,
her checks creaked.
He was out for those voters
who preferred their candidates
cold as fish in deep storage
and with a touch of the imperial, the imperious,
and a thought process
often overtaken on the road to reason
Everywhere he went,
he extended his clockwork arm
to shake the hands of the faceless
while his wife stood marble stiff
like she was centering a fountain.
What viewers most remember from his televised debate
was his vow to restore the lost art of bell-ringing
to the public school system.
When the tallies came in.
he had garnered 12 percent of the vote.
That’s nine hundred and seventy-three people
who are to be excused from partaking
in the next fifty years or so of human history.
THIS AFTERNOON VERSUS BACK IN THE DAY
Stroll down the inner city street
past tattoo parlors and bars
store-front churches and upstairs brothels
pause at the shuttered hardware store
to remember shopping for screws and washers with your father
while marveling at how
he always knew the exact size thread he needed
enter the second-hand bookstore
where dusty complete works of Shakespeare
compete with half-price recent paperbacks
walk by tenements, some occupied, some abandoned
greet the kids on the stoops as if you know them
and wave to the ancient faces in the windows –
the shock might do them some good
avoid the fly-blown grocery store
the smoke shop selling lottery tickets
and especially the sex and novelty emporium
with its drugged up dancers
rubbing against the glass of tiny booths –
your mother could be watching
remember what was good about all this
like the basketball court and the ballfield
and the stream of course
but not where it curls around the closed-up factory
like a snake brown and poisonous
still hissing with old chemicals
you can’t change where you came from
so you may as well embrace it
before the council snatches it in the name of eminent domain
razes everything to make way for a highway extension
you’re just about to make your getaway
when the local pusher is trying to sell you something
you can feel honored that he takes you for a customer
and proud when you emphatically decline
I like to sit
on one of these riverbank benches
watch men casting their lines
while sipping from bottles of something
called Iniquity Black Ale
and barges gliding downstream
and tiny putt-putt boats
cruising bank to bank
and behind me,
a family seated at a picnic table
while a middle-aged man,
in apron and cook’s hat.
where a low-tide curve
leaves behind a pebbly beach,
kids splashing up to their knees.
The fishermen offer to share their beer
and a guy on a barge,
the red-faced captain of the tiny boat.
wave to me
and the cookout folks
tender a leg
dripping with brown sauce
in my direction
and a little boy
yells from the beach beyond,
“Come on in. The water’s great.”
Life wouldn’t pass me by
even if it could.