Sunday, September 14, 2014

Alan Catlin- Three Poems

Riding the Circuit

After the day’s events, over beers
in just another roadside bar, shooting
the shit as if it didn’t splatter, tales
getting taller, shadows cast, longer.
There they sit, five charter members
of the over the hill gang, well-worn
flannel shirts rolled up over forearms,
some so worn the bruised flesh inside
them shows, all their cheap, fading tattoos
revealing lifelong ambitions once held,
never realized, nor would they be.
Like Chuckles the Rodeo Clown’s
which say: “Born to Ride” on one arm,
“Bronc Rider,” on the other, claiming
he’d still be on the circuit where it
not for the bum leg, the broken back
sustained on Texas Panhandle plain
though his rap sheet suggests otherwise,
suggests not an unbroken mustang ride
but a drunk driving with no working
headlights vehicle, totaled in one car collision
with an out-for-a-lark manure spreader,
a smashup that required him to cross
a newly furrowed field to complete
interaction with, parked as it was,
minding its own business in the barnyard.
His friends at the time compared that wild
ride with going hunting and shooting yourself
instead of the game.

Almost maudlin, after a few, Chuckles
claims he keeps clown gig because,
“I still love the sound of the crowd,
the smell of the animals….
Just being there makes me feel more like
a man than anything else could.”
Slugs a shot of Barton reserve, tips back
a long neck PBR staring into the neon
edged bar haze as if what he was recalling
wasn’t some ten cent lie.

Temp Work

I’m the Liberty Tax guy.
You know, that dude standing
alongside the road by a row of
offices, in a green robe with a dumb
pointy crown, waving a Styrofoam
pointy finger like his ass ain’t freezing
off?  Yeah, that’s me.  I worked a lot
of different locations but no matter
where you are, it sucks. 
People don’t respect you.
I’ve had stuff thrown at me:
eggs, bottles, firecrackers, full soda
cans, you name it, I ducked it.
Kids give me the finger like I dig
doing this, you know, like it doesn’t
hurt being reduced to something like this.
Well, fuck ‘em, I know who I am
inside, and where they going all stoned
and shit, ain’t pretty. Don’t I know it?
I was them once so I let it go.
It’s a job, man.
Not that it pays a lot but guys like me,
we got families and records, so there
ain’t exactly a lot of choices, know
what I mean?
I’m actually thankful these people give
me a chance, so I don’t let ‘em down.
I got like real hard time convictions
in my book.
Not easy to find a job when you’re trying
to stay cool and not go back to what
got you here in the first place.
Basically, it’s the worst kind of temp work
there is but the way I look at it is,
I’ve got a job.
Lots of guys I know got nothing.
They got dead.

The Ice Cream Wars

“The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream”
            Wallace Stevens

The wives on girls night out
and the white wine they drink
by the carafe. The green salads
with no dressing, broiled only fish,
side of baked no butter, no sour
cream, no chives.  The double delicious
dessert cart tray: cheese cake with
fruity toppings in sugar sauces,
chocolate to die for cakes, parfaits,
tarts and the ice cream sundaes
with all the toppings from whipped
cream to nuts.

The last of the four martini lunches
husbands so far past sobriety check-
points there is no looking back.
The red, spinning emergency lights
and the blue, the meat wagon and
the wrecker, a long trail of shattered
glass along the black topped highway,
glittering like stars in the night.

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