"You accept an invitation to a blonde's apartment and get socked in the jaw by a murder suspect. Next thing you know you're looking into the wrong end of a gun. What else can a guy do but sit down and write a poem," says John Lehman, founder of Rosebud, poetry editor of the Wisconsin Academy Review and co-publisher of the free, Madison street-quarterly Cup of Poems with a Side of Prose. His latest book, Dogs Dream of Running, is available at Canterbury and from amazon.com and bn.com. For a mixed bag of workshops, writing programs, short essays and books on writing, check his web site: www.JohnLehman.info.
Houdini Prepares for a Blind Date
He buffs his cordovans, dons
gray serge slacks and places
a silken blindfold in his coat's
breast pocket, just in case.
* * * * *
Secrets of a Werewolf's Wife
She carefully watches the calendar and
for any traces of blood under his finger
nails. She has learned not to question
where he goes at night, the tears in his
clothes, nor why the bedroom window can
never be locked closed. But she too has
secrets. In bed when she pulls her arm out
from under his waist, it is a large, lifeless
snake. Her thoughts at dawn are geese
honking south. And sometimes, when she
knows they are hunting for him with guns,
she becomes the moon.
* * * * *
Mistaking My Life for a Refrigerator
I open the door and Love bounces
out, jostles the table, knocks over
a chair Orange juice flows, toast
butters walls and fried eggs like fat
daisies bloom everywhere.
* * * * *
Invisible Men with X-Ray Eyes
Last night I heard the whistle of a distant train.
Today instead of going to work I walk down
a block to talk with the garbage man who is
waiting inside his truck for the drizzle to let up.
It's not one of those two-story, Frankenstein
giants with weightlifter arms that hoists trash
over its head to dump it with a grunt, but a
sports-car sleek garbage truck, flaunting sort-
at-the-curb bins that are politically correct. I've
the urge to break away from my life for a while.
And sometimes in the rain, strange alliances
At the next stop the driver shows me how to
lift a canmost are plastic nowand deposit
its bags of spilling guts, then swing it 'round
and grab another to a banging beat. I put my
feet on the running board, he shifts the gears
and when he brakes, I play it solo. I catch the
rhythm. He nods "yes." Garbage men are not
the stuff of TV shows, but that's their mystique.
They are everywhere, unnoticed, but aware of
everything. From magazines we read to hair
we've lost, to the degree our discarded under-
wear is frayed.
They are anthropologists studying a world we
furnish with debris. They smell our smells, taste
what we taste, feel the cans and boxes that
contain the food that shapes our shapes. And
here's my house. What waste our lives become.
Once I was in an experimental drama. Tom,
a mid-level accountant, and I played hobos. He
needed a release from the minutia of the "day
by day." To prepare for our roles we went to the
freight yard. I was chicken, but he hopped into
the open boxcar door of a slow moving train.
We never saw Tom again.
* * * * *
The Movie Version
In the movie version of my life
everything beneath the surface
makes sense. A porn star plays
my wife, and, oh yes, my black
and white Mustang is fiery red.
* * * * *
Jesus Cleans My Car
They are waving signs and jumping up and down
like the fucking world is coming to an end. Free
Car Wash. I pull into the ranch-style church with
a dozen smarmy kids in its parking lot. Fat, Bible-
quoting guys and plain girls, who are glad to be on
someone's team, soap my phallic symbol of a car
in a dash to make me clean. Each tries to out-save
the resttheir words like water spraying in the air
that sometimes rinse the car but mostly soak
those who hold the hose. And there is Jesus,
who once walked on water, wiping down my grill.
Jesus polishing a hubcap. Jesus with a squeegee
streaking windshield glass. Jesus stroking the long
sleek hood and Jesus mirrored in wicked chrome.
There is Jesus rubbing, Jesus buffing and Jesus
stepping back. Jesus calling out to me. Yes, Jesus
grinning knowingly. And there is Jesus opening,
oh, he is opening up the door, and Jesus moaning,
"You are saved," as I push the pedal to the floor.
© John Lehman