Poetry

April 18, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

ollis place photo

 

By

David Lohrey

 

 

 

What’s True

 

 

Why do some prefer today to tomorrow?

They have a curiosity for what’s happening,

like a cub reporter,

But no interest in tomorrow.

They are indifferent to the future.

 

Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Rambo and others,

Gloried in being he-men. They saw themselves so.

They declared themselves dedicated to what’s true,

Or to “the truth,” as they called it,

but settled for masculine fairy-tales.

 

All of them wanted to be punching bags.

They were into jock straps and making an impression.

They liked to push other people around and, if necessary,

Give their woman a fat lip.

Looking back now, it’s not very impressive.

 

Norman Rockwell was a bully, too.

Why weren’t they bored by the dreams of little boys?

At some point, and I know women who would agree,

Firetrucks and scrotums grow flaccid and rank.

 

These men fancied themselves heroes for demanding better service.

They pounded the tables, demanding their wine be topped up.

They drank from mugs. They gulped.

What they needed were bibs; some say they drooled.

 

Body shaming must be draining for young ladies.

Boys, too, are forced to stand for inspection while burly men

with cattle prods stride around the playground.

The whole thing’s right out of Planet of the Apes.

The chimps are in power.

 

Won’t this movie ever end? It’s all so rinky-dink.

This posture smacks of the impostor syndrome.

It’s one reason boys want to wear their sisters’ dresses.

They look each other over and seriously consider marriage.

 

The rough stuff makes no sense.

Most men are comfortable in their own skin.

Young lads grow out of it by six.

Cowboys and Indians are no longer warring.

They’re out shopping for a cheaper mortgage.

 

 

 

 

The Rubble of Can’t

 

 

Letter to the Editor,

 

I am writing in response to the press conference

held yesterday afternoon by Chief of Police McDonough

of the Omaha Police Department. He made a series

of less than satisfactory statements in response to questions

from the press and from the distressed public about

the investigation into the murder of Lesley Ann Bower,

the 8th grade school teacher in Neeler County, whose body

was found in Bryant Park.

 

These responses are summarized in brief.

 

I wish I could,

but,

at this time,

ladies and gentlemen,

 

I can’t answer that question, not today.

We can’t release that information.

We can’t ignore protocol.

I can’t agree with that.

 

I wish I could,

but,

at this time,

ladies and gentlemen,

 

I can’t explain further.

I can’t say anything more.

I can’t say for sure.

I can’t confirm or deny that.

 

I wish I could,

but,

at this time,

ladies and gentlemen,

 

The coroner says he can’t.

The mayor says he can’t.

The mother says she can’t.

The school says it can’t.

 

I wish I could,

but,

at this time,

ladies and gentlemen,

 

The hospital can’t, no.

The doctors can’t, not now.

The neighbors can’t, that’s for sure.

The girlfriend can’t.

 

I wish I could,

but,

at this time,

ladies and gentlemen,

 

This investigation is ongoing.

We are following standard procedure.

Who’s to say?

That’s prohibited.

 

Our investigation has just started.

We’ll let you know.

Now, if I may be excused,

I have to get back to the station.

Thank you.”

 

I wish to add my name and voice to the chorus of outraged citizens who are appalled

by the indifference to human tragedy expressed by the Chief of Police.

 

When will the police respond to questions?

What information is the President hiding?

Why will the government not answer our questions?

How much longer will the Congressman refuse to answer?

 

Chief McDonough, answer our questions!

President Trump, tell us what happened!

Secretary Clinton, release your emails!

Mr. Putin, have you no decency?

Prime Minister, have you no conscience?

 

 

Signed,

 

 

Millie Cole, retired nurse, Neeler County Hospital

 

 

 

 

 

Return to Nowhere

 

 

We played jacks.

We played tic-tac-toe.

We laughed ‘til dawn.

We watched reruns of Flash Gordon.

We went to the zoo.

 

We laughed at first at the kangaroo,

but cried when we saw the miserable

road-runner in the cage built for parakeets.

My favorite meal was canned ravioli.

For lunch I had peanut butter and jelly.

 

Dots and licorice sticks clogged

my teeth but I didn’t smoke.

We made nasty sounds and laughed.

My friend’s dad passed a black man

crossing the street and cried, “Run, nigger, run.”

 

Life in America was about to change.

 

I liked hiding under the bed with

my little ten-year-old friend, Ellen.

I liked staying up late to watch “The Man

From U.N.C.L.E.” and “Get Smart.”

There was little on my mind beyond

Peter, Paul and Mary.

 

We envied the girls picked up over the years at the curb

by Elvis in his favorite Cadillac the color of panties.

We watched Orson Welles, Marlon, and Truman Capote

Explaining their side of the story on late night talk TV.

I used to hum the Alka Selzer jingle,

“Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, Oh, What a Relief It Is.”

 

This was the country we called America the Beautiful.

 

Tonight, I’ll find Paris Hilton or Madonna

on TV, discussing their recent trips to Darfur,

maybe to the orphanages in Malawi.

They’ll tell us what Darth Vader is like in bed.

They’ll warn us about AIDS in Zimbabwe.

This is what passes now as serious discussion.

 

Women have taken over, but men are still blamed.

Oprah, Ellen, and Whoopi make their millions

asking other women about their sex lies.

Male guests strip off their clothes as the girls howl.

This is America’s university. We all learn about

what’s important from billionaires with product lines.

 

And we continue to decline without Walter Cronkite.

What happened to Eric Sevareid and Harry Reasoner?

All men are sickened by the collapse. All women are

afraid we’re going down the drain. Together next year

we’ll watch a screening of the First Family on the toilet.

 

Is there any hope? There’s some in the new ketchup

bottle designed by Heinz. There’s consolation in the

maple syrup-flavored coffee served at Starbuck’s.

It adds confidence to the American people to know

one can fly direct now from Kennedy to New Delhi.

 

 

 

 

Dead End or Cul de Sac

 

 

Trish: yes, she was the varsity slut at my high school.

It’s so great having memories. I remember it all.

Male and female electric sockets. Krystal’s hamburgers,

4 for a dollar, and a chocolate shake for a quarter.

 

I remember the boy accused of brushing his pubic hairs, and many others,

but the one I remember most was the sixteen-year old black boy Carrie Allen,

my best friend, who was in our 9th grade class, but would never finish.

 

Carrie, who walked with me very day after school and bought

me lunch at the burger counter in the back of the neighborhood

store, Fred Montesi’s. A street fighter whom I loved,

Carrie was a real friend.

 

What I recall is that blacks can be a whole lot more than just cool;

some are warm. Some understand friendship. Carrie Allen was cool

all right, just like Count Bassie. He was my only friend in the 10th grade.

He was the only one I could talk to. He was physically dangerous.

 

He lived in a crummy shack on an unpaved road with a broken fridge

on the front porch. I had no idea what he saw in me, maybe I let him

copy my homework. I can’t rightly recollect. Maybe I was

his only white friend as he was the only black I knew.

 

My brother and my father would have a good laugh over Carrie Allen.

He was not allowed to come inside our house. Some years later,

after I’d been away, brother told me at the dinner table that Carrie

Allen had been killed in a car accident.

 

“He died.” My brother spoke with his best acting smirk on his stupid face. He

wanted me to react. I didn’t bat an eye. My father and he thought that grief

would prove my weakness, evidence they could use for future humiliations.

“See! You care about a n****. You’re a fag.” This is how sick it got.

 

Forty years on I’ll say this. I remember Carrie with affection.

I scarcely think of my brother and when I do, I shrug. I couldn’t care less.

He’s nothing to me, along with my father, the liar. There were no blacks

permitted in our house. He had his way, fine.

 

But today, fifteen years after his death, I feel nothing for him but contempt.

The family jewels were safe but his son, me, grew to hate his fair-minded lies.

The dead bolts and the self-righteous smirks of liberal compassion. By 1975,

the rule was no Afro-Americans allowed in the yard. Things were changing.

 

 

 

 

3 Grams of Etcetera

 

 

Senator, thank you so much for your appearance.

I have just one question. Why won’t you step in?

I’m dying. I wrote you a letter. Did you even read it?

Won’t you intervene?

I want to live. Only you can extend my life.

 

CHORUS: Shame on you! You work for us! Do your job!

Answer yes or no!

 

Senator, thank you for coming today. I have a question.

Why won’t you send someone to clean up my yard?

My husband is working and I am too busy. The debris

is piling up and we need your help. It’s not enough to say

you are sorry; we want action.

You have to do something to make things better.

 

CHORUS: You work for us! Do your job! Answer yes or no!

Shame on you!

 

Senator, it is a pleasure to meet you. My daughter is autistic,

but she was arrested last month for stabbing her teacher.

She refused to let my baby use the restroom. It’s the teacher

who should be in prison. Why won’t you show compassion?

You owe it to my child. Why won’t you use your power?

You owe it to the American people.

 

CHORUS: Do your job! Answer yes or no! Shame on you!

You work for us!

 

Senator, good afternoon. Thank you for coming out today. I appreciate it.

Your honor, I am angry. My doctor tells me I’m obese. He says I need

to lose 75 pounds. The food companies add too many calories.

My vouchers won’t cover decent food. I’m so obese now I can’t walk.

What exactly are you prepared to do? I’m desperate.

 

CHORUS: Answer yes or no! Shame on you! You work for us!

Do your job!

 

Senator, it’s a pleasure. I understand her anger. We’re all angry here.

I’m at my wit’s end and nobody’s lifting a finger. And don’t you dare say

you are sorry about it. I expect you to do something. My husband’s penis

is too small. We can’t have intercourse. Our sex life is not satisfying.

Last year he was refused an implant. He says my tits are too big,

but our insurance won’t cover reduction. We need single payer insurance.

Where is the United States government? We have a right to be happy.

We deserve to have sex.

 

CHORUS: Shame on you! You work for us, motherfucker. Do your job!

Answer yes or no! Do your job or we’ll put a cap in your ass.

The American   people…we…give us our bread…we…

Senator…the petition demands…sign it, you bastard…

take the pledge…greatest…owe us…little people…help…

now…we demand…give us…the people…we…Senator….

Senator…SENATOR! Washington…Jesus…Where? Senator…

our leaders…we…we… THE PEOPLE! AMERICAN! SENATOR!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday

 

 

Many years ago my mother decided I was queer.

She never asked me. When I was 15, she told me not to read

D. H. Lawrence because he was homo. On my 37th birthday,

she gave me a novel by Gore Vidal.

Some years later, I got one by Armistead Maupin.

 

My mother hates queers. She told me so. She asked me once

if I knew what a homo was. I told her yes. She said,

“A homo is a man who loves another man in the same way

as a real man loves a woman.” I said oh. For my 42nd,

she gave me Edith Wharton.

 

Something about me reminds her of patrician women. My mother

was always interested in what other people do in bed. She spoke

about men with whom women could relax. A real man should

make a woman feel alive. It’s all about being made to do what

one doesn’t want to. Real men are predators; they make women feel threatened.

 

“If you were a real man, women wouldn’t feel safe around you.

Remember that.” The year my father died, my mother was 71.

She called to say she wanted to be 17. She was determined to be

taken advantage of. She started going to the local bars. She found

the Mexican men attractive.

 

She liked that one of them stuck his tongue down her throat.

She didn’t want anyone to say she was old. My mother

bought a silver convertible. When I objected, she called me a pansy.

She needed a place to fuck. She hated me for telling her to be careful.

She hung up when I objected.

 

She called to say she felt lonely. Why not stay the weekend?

When my wife and I arrived, she talked incessantly

Of a new girlfriend who wanted to go down on her.

It thrilled her to tell us. She’d invited the girlfriend

To move right in. We’d better go to a motel.

 

A few months later, she kicked her out.

She came home to find a total stranger sitting

In her living room on her sofa. Her new girlfriend

Had invited in the neighbor. That was her mistake.

My mother doesn’t like surprises. She didn’t want visitors.

 

The next week, the police tried to stop her for speeding.

She drove her new car into a retaining wall on the freeway.

Her Prius was totaled. Her new boyfriend with the tongue

stole her money. He sent his wife over to help clean her house.

She boosted mother’s silk scarf and tried to take her mink coat.

 

My mother is 80. For her birthday

I gave her a pack of leak-proof condoms.

She and Mario preferred to make love poolside.

I thought she might like to stay protected

If they fell from the patio into the water.

 

Thank God, she no longer drives.

She thinks she’s 18, but she’s been grounded.

She lost her driver’s license but kept her DUI.

She still thinks I’m an old queen. She misses men.

She wants one to come over and knock her teeth out.

 

 

 

 

 

David Lohrey

David Lohrey is from Memphis, and now lives in Tokyo. He graduated from UC Berkeley. Internationally, his poetry can be found in Otoliths, Stony Thursday Anthology, Sentinel Quarterly, and Buckshot Magazine. In the US, recent poems have appeared in Poetry Circle, FRiGG, Obsidian, and Apogee Journal. His fiction can be read in Crack the Spine, Dodging the Rain, Literally Stories, and The Broke Bohemian. David’s The Other Is Oneself, a study of 20th century literature, was published last year, while his first collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was released in August. He is a member of the Sudden Denouement Collective. 

Editor review

3 Comments

  1. Fellow April 30, at 12:56

    Ouch. Bitter stuff. But can't help relishing the dark comedy of the grotesques, especially the repulsive robotic cant of officialese in "... Can't" (with its perfectly pitched refrain) and the antic depravity of the impressively energetic senescent momma in "Happy Birthday." The spirit moving throughout the land here is both deliciously Juvenalian and culturally purgative.

    Reply
  2. samantha lucero April 20, at 00:50

    one of my favorite story tellers. i feel like i see something differently anytime i read davids work.

    Reply
    • davlohrey April 30, at 13:09

      Hey, Sam. So great hearing from you. Love having you as a reader.

      Reply

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