like I need a hole in the head

“Copy editor, must work nights”

That’s not the job for me,
so I tell the
lady at the
New Jersey agency
that I have the flu
and I can’t call
her back until
next week

I am not worried…I have
687 dollars in my
checking account
and at least
a dozen
unread poetry
books on the
wicker table by
the back door
and I quit smoking
last week…

…there’s a case of
unopened port wine
in the basement,

…and the lawnmower is torn apart
on the workbench
in the garage

So
I need night work like I need another
business trip to Seattle
…like I need another meeting with
that senior manager from
San Jose who drives
the Audi and
smokes clove cigarettes,

I need night work
like I need that waitress
at Wranglers’ Inn
in Missoula
with her attitude
about “last call customers”

I need night work
like I need light yard work

washed up

                        i

when i was about nine years old

I asked my old man

about a guy I saw on television

talking to Howard Cosell

He’s a washed up fighter

my old man said

he took so many punches

that it scrambled his brains

was he ever good? I asked

yeah, in the beginning he was good

but they pounded the crap out of him

so bad that he couldn’t win big fights

so he only took little fights

because he knew he could win them

but after awhile,

he couldn’t win those either

so he’d just go in the ring

and wait for the first punch to land

then he’d go down and kiss the mat

playing it safe, just like he was told to do

by the evil bastards who used him up

and when that didn’t work anymore

he quit being a fighter

and now all he has left is Vegas–

maybe some gambling joint will hire him

to pump palms at the door

or smoke cigars with East Coast mobsters

or show up at restaurant openings with strippers

 

ii

so I’m forty five years old

and I’m thinking about the fighter

and my old man, who’s been dead

for twenty three years

as I sit in front of the Olivetti portable typewriter

on the porch of the farmhouse

up in the Poconos

and Leah comes home

from work at the diner at 1:30AM

and asks how the writing is going

and I tell her

I haven’t written a line all day

nor did I write a line yesterday

or the day before that

and the rejection notice

that I received two weeks ago

is still attached to the door of the refrigerator

under the Carlsbad Caverns magnet

where I plan to leave it, until the next one comes

at which time it shall be removed

to join the assemblage of others

in the knife drawer in the kitchen

You think you’re washed up don’t you

she says to me, and I tell her that:

I have had too many blows to the head lately

so it may be time,

to notify Vegas, and let them know

I’m on the market.

nonsense Leah says,

you’re germaphobic

you’re allergic to smoke

and you’re going nowhere near

a restaurant opening.