It wasn’t worth it, trying to accept being robbed
to get my beater Pontiac out of the Cook County impound.
The fines and fees accrued by the time I returned to town
months after they towed it came to three thousand
and sixty-five bucks. I earn nine an hour. So…
The rainy-day fund didn’t cover this contingency.
I told those criminals, Keep it. A lot of good
it will do you. Whoever drives it should
gear down if they need to stop—I put off
a four-wheel brake job. Too damned expensive.
Add a quart of oil in every time you fill the tank,
which thanks to something I ran over
leaks a steady drip. May it bring you
every happiness. I’ll take fifteen hundred cash
to a guy who knows a guy who fixes beaters
he buys cheap from —wait for it—
the nearby impound yards. It’s hard
to beat the city at the fine art of hustling.
If you don’t know who to talk to here,
plan to empty out your billfold
and ride a bus to a slower place.
Benefits, With Friends
The same (roughly) hundred active people
continually see each other at various
and sundry meetings, charity shindigs,
musical performances. The norm
of interlocking circles spinning near the middle
as town rotates on an axis, its poles
idealism and apathy. A form of
advertising failure means the nucleus
of fine but familiar folks support every
benefit and show. What would draw
the rank and file residents who don’t
attend public functions? We’re in competition
with television, losing. The community
committees gasp for new blood. They yearn
to put more butts in the seats, given
the level of talent passing through. They wish
to see the same few friendly faces
a little less often. But if we stay home,
then who will come? Conversations tend to
repeat themselves ad infinitum at intermissions.
Oh hey, how are you doing? Nice duds there.
It seems that we see each other
every, every, everywhere we go.
The Quilt-maker’s Exit Sign
[Ekphrastic on Jon McDonald’s painting
from the Slavery’s Chill series, “Tumbling Blocks”]
All of us are leaving off this place—
soon, soon, sooner than
the wedding party’s embers ash over,
before cotton-thickened revelers
rise much past the roosters.
We’ve been waiting on this signal—
there you see it, Tumbling Blocks.
It means to fetch traveling shoes,
pack what carries easily.
Make haste, make tracks,
make for true North.
I spread the quilt
while musicians set the meeting point—
“Down to the River,” they play with gusto.
Master’s daughter and her husband
twirl to mark their beginning.
We wait to go into the world.
Preacher-man ran through his questions.
Bride and groom said, “I will. I do.”
Swore vows, like I did to myself,
when I stitched this signal patchwork:
I will. I swear,
not one more morning.
I will, we will,
TODD MERCER won the Grand Rapids Festival of the Arts Flash Fiction Award for 2015, the first Woodstock Writers Festival Flash Fiction Award, two Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Prizes and was runner-up in the Palm Beach Plein Air Poetry Awards. His digital chapbook, Life-wish Maintenance appeared in 2015 at Right Hand Pointing. Mercer’s poetry and fiction appear in journals such as: Apocrypha & Abstractions, Cheap Pop, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Kentucky Review, The Lake, The Legendary, Literary Orphans, Main Street Rag Anthologies, Midwestern Gothic and Spartan.