Saturday, March 1, 2014

Gene McCormick- Three Poems

Cold Coffee

There is a man sitting over in the corner by himself watching as I count out thirteen dollars to myself, all I’ve got today. A ten, three singles. He’s not a threatening presence, just there maybe verifying that all I have is thirteen dollars—as if that needs verification. Sure as hell don’t need a money clip to hold thirteen dollars, four bills. Have a money clip back at the house, gold-tome-plated metal with the head of the racehorse John Henry. Don’t use it because even there were a need for it, it is clamped too tight to easily slide bills in and out. It never really loosened up but probably would if it got used more. As things stand, it is like brand new, waiting for new money. Well, I have enough money to buy a cup of coffee; two cups and a decent tip. Said she’d meet me here at nine-thirty. It’s just past that now and it’s not like her to be late though I don’t really know that for a fact and as a matter of fact it’s not like me to be early.

God, I hate to wait for people.

She isn’t shilly-shallying, no shilly-shallying going on at all as she stands staring in the bathroom mirror, thighs flush against the sink ledge, moving small pastel-colored bottles and jars of creams, gels and liquids about, thoughtfully, preparing a composition as though setting up a chess board. She stares at the bottles, shakes her head almost imperceptively and shifts them about again and again, faster, and then still faster like a terrier with a toy mouse. Finally, squeezing some cream onto the tip of her index finger, she writes to him, to each and all, a message on the mirror.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m late.”

He looks at the clock on the wall, then at the man sitting in the corner who looks back at him.

She lays flat on her back on the cool bathroom tile floor, eyes open. It’s uncomfortable.

Okay, he decides she’s had enough time to get here. He pats his pants pocket, feeling the dollars and heads across the street to the Super Walmart.

Against all odds, she falls asleep on the bathroom floor, the tiles now warm to her body.


A once steamy radiator sits flat to the wall,
an inactive volcano beneath a dark window
on a ground of peeling paint as
a reminder of kindergarten days:
comic strips, newspapers, radios;
a time when cartoonist George Herriman’s
irascible mouse Ignatz threw bricks
at androgynous  Krazy Kat’s head,
connecting without causing
concussions, brain damage or law suits.
Offissa Pupp was the law, storyline ballast,
wielding a nightstick, badge and squinty eye
patrolling Coconino County daily and Sunday.

Look, says Joaquin (“Wah-keen, amigo, Wah-keen”),
the damn brick is a sado-masochistic chunk of
assent among consenting comic characters:
rodent Ignatz needs empowerment and quirky
Krazy Kat craves attention, getting off on pain
while impotent Offissa Pupp holds their coats.
It’s like this, like Esther Williams, the steamy 1940s
swim queen and movie star circa the radiator,
pushing up from the bottom of a Hollywood pool
in a white one-piece bathing suit,
feet kicking, arms lunging, hands pulling, mouth shut
only to break through the surface and snort topsoil
instead of Moonlight Bay.

That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, Wah-Keen.
It does to me, amigo.

On The Street Where You Live

Thinking and evasive action is hardly stalking.
It’s not, NOT stalking at all, not even close.
I know where she takes lunch
and I park nearby but remain unseen.
Driving by her house—she lives alone—
I never ever stop or slowdown
although I take my eyes off the road.
When I see her enter a store where I am going
it creates a buzz inside  me but I wait
for her to exit and drive off.
No, of course not. Of course not.
(I do know her meandering habits, though.)
Is there a question of her stalking me?—
Why would she do that?
Does mentalizing, memory mumble-jumble
count as stalking. Well, about as much
as a tree falling in a forest by itself.
If I was going to stalk her I would instead
just kill her.
Shoot her with someone else’s gun,
a friend’s, maybe a current friend.
Large caliber gun.
Pump her full of hollow-point lead.
Or maybe, if I felt strong, this:
unsheathe my Brazilian hide-skinning knife,
run the dull flat edge of the blade
across my tongue
and then twist it into her stomach.
I’m not planning to do that. Neither action.

Brief Bio: McCormick's self-indulgent Question Of The Day: Why do some poets distractingly capitalize the first line in poems even if it is not 1) a proper name, or 2) the first word in a sentence? (McCormick's latest chapbook, La Vie en Rose: Paris Today, is now available and is properly capitalized.

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