Oct/Nov 2002 spotlight

Three Poems

by Pamela Gemin

Artwork by Tara Gilbert-Brever


I Remember How This Song Goes

Two beers and a hurricane, twenty years piss away,
and when John comes back from the bar with another
big red drink, it might as well be the Del Rio circa 1979, but no
it's the Velvet Dog, New Orleans, 21st Century. Alcohol
whispers where you been girl we've missed you welcome back.
Josie asks who wants to play a drinking game called "I Never";

the darer tells something she's never done, like I've never
smoked angel dust
, and those who have done that sin have to hoist away.
Paula says honey count me out, but I'll bet we're all thinking back.
I love the little gold lights on the ceiling, and I'd love another
big red drink. I love those jangly guitars splashing out of the juke, guitars
of fried oysters, ripped fingernails, rhinestone crowns--I know

this song--I feel the horses coming galloping--I remember, I know
what comes next, jangling guitars playing into the bridge--I will never
grow old    I'll go to heaven tonight    There is a storm in the form of a girl

and a high-heeled boy in black-feather boa skateboarding away.
He's left a half-pack of Newports on the bar, and if I have another
red drink I'll be smoking again, snap out of it snap but it's coming back

home and there's never been anyplace like it. Grateful to breathe back
the smoke of a hundred lit cigarettes, I smile over at John, who knows
and remembers me best like this, in the sparkly pretty lights of let's have another,
quick before it melts to lost keys lost cars smeared lashes neverland
payphones odd bruises bare feet sliced on broken glass; and I've been away,
but I feel the horses coming galloping    I'll go to heaven tonight


Drinking Man

Out on the edge of the highway, under the mailbox,
the mourning dove hobbling, something important broken.

Through the kitchen window, he saw three boys
poking at her with sticks, slammed his cup on the counter,

ran with his fury down the drive stop it goddamn you
you're sick punks should be ashamed sick punks

scooped the dove into the cradle of his big hands, spoke
comfort to her in coo-tones, carried her round to the back

and laid her tenderly on the lawn jesus christ almighty.
Dug around out back for a sharp enough rock. Mom and I

at the window leave him alone as he raised his arm
twice and could not bring it down, and then on the third try

crushed her toy skull don't say anything to him, came in,
washed his hands, and drank his coffee. Nature don't care;

she just don't, he finally muttered. Mom and I hung out a load
or whites, put a load of colors in. The next time you think

your old man is a bastard, try and remember this morning.



A dollar thirty-nine at Denny's Sure-Fine: the gladiolus stuck with blue tags. I want this stem of coral glads so bad I almost steal it, bad as my mother wanted that 12 bottle of nail polish, Ravishing Red, a winter color on sale in the spring of '56, so bad she almost stole it. Not bread, not stamps or Coca-Cola or the library cookbook Exciting Ways with Ground Meats, but nail polish, flowers, something beautiful for your hands, your room at home. $1.09 cash on my person, several thousand more in two retirement accounts, in two checking accounts, in two savings accounts, in 17 Series EE United States Savings Bonds; besides which I'm good for so many thousands more, according to umpteen direct-mail campaigns arriving daily through my slot with their holograms and their competitively low introductory rates. But stuck on the road with $1.09, requiring this feathery stem of coral blooms. My mother had the bottle of Ravishing Red in her hand, just about to pocket it, when she thought about what kind of woman theft would make her, imagined the manager of S.S. Kresge & Co. looking down his nose from his grandfather's oak desk in the managerial loft at just that one moment when Patsy O'Connor Pierce had chosen sin-one of so very few times in her personal history-and alerting the cosmetic personnel--STOP, THIEF!--or worse the quiet pulling aside, the stern tenderness ma'am, were you meaning to pay for that polish, that's twelve cents plus the tax. The hushed call to my father (at work on the psych ward, yet, or still in class?), soft slide of confessional screen, the benevolent go in peace, my daughter, and do not covet the things of this world, such as pointy red nails... and perhaps her case thinly disguised in next Sunday's sermon, the woman who yearned too wildly for worldly red things, and a seat reserved on the rough-hewn, splintering bench in southern purgatory to which vain women were directed, a bench imported from hell. O, pray me up from my longing whose flesh is the flesh of the compact disc, the amazon.com, the French Roast, the Czechoslovakian butter, the Crabtree and Evelyn, buffalo mozzarella. 300-thread cotton sheets, the Ben and the Cherry Garcia. The J. Jill catalog. The Clinique bonus bag, and this one stem of coral glads, forever and ever, world without end, amen.



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