The Side Strip's Dark Tonight

The secrets of this town are wrapped tight,
Bubble of baby’s breath in a pocket of cellophane.
There is a Ferris wheel spinning atop my tongue
And all the old ladies in fraying petticoats,
Smelling of cat piss and Good Will junk,
Stop to gawk.  Their curiosity is bland,
Like half-cooked oatmeal or the fatty part of a pork chop.
I hear the spider-leg crack of their bones,
The thorn-stiff poke of arthritic motor-tick,
Noses twitching, necks shaking, gossip gurgling.
Their judgment feels more like pop rocks
In the moment you mix them with grape soda
And the world seemingly explodes inside your closed smile.
This is the summer of 2003 and there is nothing
Better to do than listen to Bush pull the spark plugs
On peace while the liberals plead at Gothesome Gates
And the conservatives dig landmines of personal debate.
The old ladies are so full of life now, canes scraping
Across the bubble-gum goo of heated concrete
Because they are old and frail, and the frail move
More slowly than the dog-handling pedestrians
And the women in red high heels who stand outside
The drugstore in short black skirts, waiting for the cats to call.


(First appeared in Breadcrumb Scabs Magazine, 2009)