Excerpt for Tigers in the Tall Grass, Panthers in the Street by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Tigers in the Tall Grass,
Panthers in the Street

Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Copyright © 2016-2018 by Ryan Quinn Flanagan.

All rights reserved.

Grateful acknowledgement to any publications where the following works may appear.

Front cover image by Ford Dagenham

Back cover image taken from page 297 of
To the Snows of Tibet through China by Antwerp Edgar Pratt

Published by

Leaf Garden Press

Tigers in the Tall Grass, Panthers in the Street


Soccer Moms of the Hitler Youth

Motion Pictures

Tigers in the Tall Grass, Panthers in the Street

Only Gyms I Know Are Morrison and Jones

Rage Against the Vending Machine

Ghost Horses of the Motor City


Pete’s Car Wash

Orson Welles


Hairy Situations

Pro-life Poem

Pro-choice Poem

Sex Tape with a Woman in a Vegetative State

Emergency Preparedness in the CBD

An Open Letter to Flies

Sandwiches by the River

Get Well Soon

Blood in the Stool

The Night I Crawled into my Own Bellybutton and Died

Drag Racers

Church and State

O Stereo, Stereo wherefore art thou Stereo”

Buyer’s Market

The Big News is No News at All

Chance is Never on the List

Multiple Shooters

Thai Friendship Bracelet

The Real-Estate Developer


Arresting Images

Injecting Humour

Silence of the Yams

Government Informant

Sports Buff

Disturbing the Peace

Taking Vitamins to the Prom

My Floor is not my Ceiling

A Child Named Armpit Fart

Muscle Building Agent

Tit for Tats

Bowling Balls

Coming Attractions

Veranda Rights

Throw a Lightbulb at a Dead Rhino and Call it Fire

Anything for a Laugh

House of Knives

Irish Pub

Singles Night

Blended Family Cap


New Girl

War Correspondent for a War that Never Happened

Peruvian Yummy Mummy

A Well is a Great Place to Pick Up Water

Revisionists Take the Subway

Pride is Both a Sin and a Parade

Oversight Always Looks the Other Way

Hack Job

Juiced to the Gills”

Long & Pink

Service Industry Transplant

A Dark Turn

Puppy Mill Squeeze Toy Devotion

An Idiot, in Six Languages

Superheroes are Dumb

Take it from Mr. Sunshine



Cheesy Potato Skins at TGI Fridays

Yank, Wrench, Appeal

From the Apollo to the Armpit, the Jaybird Sings

Resting Bitch Face

99 Problems but a Table Ain’t One

Illuminati Tattoo



Mall Escalator

Job Hunt

It is always preferable to lose someone else’s marbles

Kaiser Rolls Do Not Speak German

I told him it was not nice to torture people like that

The Sun in the Afternoon Sky Still High on Itself

Huggy Bear Motel

Me and the Greys, Not the Aliens but the Towels

If You Fornicate with an Accent All the Better

Anthropomorphizing Half the Property Line into a Tiny Green Jug Band from Rural Mississippi

Roaming Charges May Apply

Moll Flanders Never Made a Sex Tape so Why Should I?

Docent at the Detroit Institute of Art

Ad Hoc Vision Quest at 40

Moles in the Security Service

Percy Leaves the Ox

Upon Grooming Someone Else’s Desk Lamp to be my Successor

14 Bathing Suits Later

There I am

Dead Cat

Winner Takes All


All Those Cameras and Not a Single Close-up

No Show

You Don’t Have Problems if Adult Colouring Book Therapy Can Solve Them

Much Ado about Nothing

Craft Interview # 7

Looking for a Buyer

For a Most Rude Lady from

Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong

B&D Auto Body

Gauchos of Rio Gallegos

Moving Day

Chewing the Fat

Two Leos

Crime Scene

Google Earth

Bye Bye Bobby

Send an Elephant from Carthage to Rome and it Arrives in Under a Week

Photo Huts Are the Last Viable Orgies

I Can’t Even Do Mental Illness Right

Some of the Best Investigative Journalists Suffer from Allergies in Women’s Leotards

Barn Burner


Tears for the Dead, Perfume for the Smell

Custody Battle

Vilified Drink Box Quartet

The Weatherman

She Loved That Thing


Byronic Love in All the Right Places

Sir Glance A Lot

Exploring Your Property Line while Backing Out of the Driveway Hardly Makes You a Frontiersman

Crowning in a Way Royalty Cannot

Senior Vice President

Buildings Jumping off People for a Change

Falling for a Woman

Body Blow

Mackinac Full-Serve

I Read it in the Gazette

Body Paint

I Am So Easy to Live with That She is Doing it Right Now

New Liver

Fear and Desire

300 Year Old Man in a 37 Year Old Body

Lumber Run

Give Me a Hand

The Drawings of Terminally Ill Children on the Walls

Hatred Served like Fresh Coffee Each Morning

First Moustaches Still Finding their Way to Lip

Pointillism is a Condition, Not an Art

Shot Caller

Battle of the Sexes

Enjoying Retirement

Free Netflix for the Month

Dustin Hoffman Counting Toothpicks so the Mob Has Something to Stick Between Their Teeth

Staff Infections

Be a Whore of Babylon to Your Heart’s Content

Dylan Went Electric and So Have I

History Buff

Pardon the Interruption, in Four Parts

Opera Crowd

Departures by the Airport

Hunger Games



He Had a Locker

Genetically Modified Elbows Miss the Funny Bone


Overseas Cochese

Half Sleeve

My First Dead Body

Pursed Lips

Itching the Scratch

King Crab

Yarn Barn

Soft Target

Calling in Favours

Wormholes and Saturated Fats and Humanzees in Serious Need of a Razor

Girl Guided Missile Strike with Cookies

Making the Cut

Rum Runners in the Floating Bathtub

Dead Ringer

Sewing Discord into the Hem of my Only Dress

Compression Socks

Indiana Rest Stop

Under the Weather, Over the Worms

Collateral Damage is Just another Way of Saying I Spray Painted Your Cat Mint Green and Got Some of it on the Carpet

Muscle Atrophy Returns from Space

Barbarians at the Gates

Gloom Factory

Ladies Free Before Eleven

Commercial Drone


Deuces Are Wrinkled


I Get Terrible Indigestion so I Would Make a Lousy Cannibal

Climbing into Your Neighbour’s Trees Again Trying to Identify with the Squirrels

Aeroplanes Crashing to the Earth like Motorized Dandruff

It is for Each Man to Know His Own Hell

Chinese Stress Balls



Copernicus Would Water my Lawn if I had One

All Gris-gris, No Gaga


Shutting my Eyes in Order to See

Iceberg Season

Vegetable Beef

Ring Shopping

In the Townships

Return Policy

Ode to Cannibalism


Wednesday Afternoon with Shoehorn

Lightning Always Strikes Twice

John Deere

Utilitarianism, like Buying Happiness on Vinyl

Green Room


Please Drink Irresponsibly

My Science

Zipper Life

Emancipation Percolation

You Can’t Handle the Tooth

Cake Jumping Out of Strippers is Just Vomiting

Cull Waiting

Sour Puss

View from a Yacht Named Bouncing Betty

Keep Dreaming

Shipping Crate

J. Wu



Give a Man a Parachute, and He will Jump from One Conclusion to the Next

Not Even on Business

Things Get Messi

Smitten Kittens

Even the Balance Beam Falling in Line

Playing Centerfield for a Religious Cult High on Sugar

Star Treatment

Picking at the Scabbard

Worth the Words



Sob Story

Cut and Run

Itsy Bitsy

River Rocks

One Man Show

From the Bunk Sock of Major Tom

Food Basics

If Only Degas Played High School Football


Dropping the Ball

Never a Bridesmaid

This is Not a Sonnet


Best Friends with an Air Gun

No Rabbit Punches

War Paint


Breaking my City of Glass

Thrift Shop Bridal Gown

Keynote Speaker

Video Store Discount Bin


Wheeling and Dealing

Out of Wedlock

Manhattan was Once the Projects

Adrenaline Junkie # 9

Consumer Confidence

Swahelium Balloons of my Red Understanding

Professor Emeritus

Baby Fever

White Chocolate

Arid Are the Sands of the Retired Test Pilot Mojave

Inquiring Mind

A Four Man Job like Any Orgy

Factory Direct

Man Bun

A Chance Worth Taking

Sugar Water Grifters and the End of Days

Growing Boy

Legalizing Pans

Black Widow

Sound Check

I Don’t Go Near It Until I’m In It

Coo Coo Ca-Choo

Young Fawns that Have Not Been Shot Through the Head Yet

China Lily

Air Mail

False Positive

Tools of the Tirade

Hair Trigger

Even the Livingroom Carpet Looking to Shag

Poem for a Coral Briefcase in the Service of Launch Code Hacks

Testimonials from the Shooting Range

He Asks to Shake my Hand, and I Tell Him He Suffers from Parkinson’s by Proxy

You Can’t Pull a Hat Out of a Rabbit

Committing to Memory as other Men Commit to Marriage


Want to See This Black Sheep Disappear?

Second Wind

Pit Stop

A Sizable Lead

Anything Seen from Space has Eluded the Eye Doctor

Snipers on the Roof of my Mouth

Comedy Central

So Sue Me

Don’t Lay Eggs

Frankie Says Relax, and for Once I Agree

27 Nose Rings

Fringe Movement

Clowns on Stilts for Legs Too Tall for Falling

Alabaster Sounds more like a Child Born Out of Wedlock than a Colour

For Sale

Cat Man Do


The waitress had rough hands.

They chafed against my underside as she brought me

to the table.

And the food on top of me was simple fare

smothered in a blanket of warm gravy

that would make you tired even if you had

just slept fourteen straight restful hours.

Then came the spoons and forks, I always felt bad for them.

Forced into all those greasy waiting mouths.

And the conversation was dull.

Something about the quickest way to get

from here to there and perhaps four or five

other tiresome things.

And when they were done and paid up

it was the rough hands of the waitress again.

As she cleared the table, bringing me back to the kitchen.

Where some kid with a background in torture

and wrinkly fingers tried to hold me underwater

for some minutes.

Soccer Moms of the Hitler Youth

Notice they always tell you

you are raving bat shit mad when

you are at your most vulnerable.

The people who sunk the titanic

and claimed a shortage of lifeboats.

Nazi sympathizers

in slimming summer dresses

that make you love


The mob mentality

a matter of numbers

and little else.

Soccer moms

of the Hitler


And all those many pyramid scheme Asians

paying top dollar to look white

for jobs.

Coffee shop baristas

holding the large wooden key

to the only bathroom.

Leni Riefenstahl made good movies,

they just never had another love interest

other than the country.

And that makes some


A sleeping bag full

of bedbugs.

The moon in the sky

half full

like hiding.

Motion Pictures

I took a few pictures she had of her dead grandmother

off the mantle

and ran around in the street with them


waving them around in the wind as though dear old granny

could be brought back to life again

and I imagined her a young Jean Harlow or Bette Davis

out on the town with all the finest folks

never once constipated or behind on rent like regular people get

and I thought I was doing old granny a favour

but the woman chasing me down the street

thought different.

Later at her place, she said that was very insensitive of me.

To put granny in motion pictures like that.

She was a beautiful woman, she said.

Why do you think I cast her?,

I asked.

Tigers in the Tall Grass, Panthers in the Street

It is not the tigers in the tall grass

that cause such consternation

and terror.

They seem a world away

and most

will end up in zoo exhibits

doing circus tricks to avoid a flogging

or as soon-to-be mantelpiece trophies

caught in the poacher’s crosshairs.


it is not the tigers in the tall grass

(even the man eating ones)

that incite our fear,

but rather

the panthers

in the street.

You know the ones.



and well organized.

Poised to strike

at the heart of white America

for centuries of injustice.

The panthers in the street

are the star of the nightly news.


medium build

caught in a shootout with police.

A built in boogie man

for the national consciousness.

Of course,

the panthers in the street

are just a red herring.

They always have been.

And with time,

the panthers in the street

will meet the same fate

as the tigers in the tall grass.


just mounted-head trophies

of the real predator.

Only Gyms I Know Are Morrison and Jones

I do not understand those men that take steroids.

Veiny angry giants with raisins for testicles.

I want to be scrawny and unassuming

so that no one ever asks me to help them move.

I don’t want to lift anything.

This is all natural baby, can you believe that?

Of course they can.

I let my driver’s licence expire as well

so I am not asked to drive anyone around


I want to be a last resort only kinda guy.

No human growth hormone for me.

I want to be small enough to fit into Tinker Bell’s

dusty pocket.

Rage Against the Vending Machine

You place the coins in the slot

listen to them tumble down mechanical gullets

petering out of sound

and you are careful to make your selection

pushing the right button but nothing happens

so you push it once again, this time harder

as though ringing a shoddy doorbell

then again and again and again

but nothing.

Then you step back, retreat from the fray

for perspective.

There is none.

So you grab the damn thing, shake it violently.

Cuss the vending machine out as you lift it off the ground in anger.

Reaching first into the slot to get your purchase

then into the change slot,

you find nothing.

Punching and kicking its shiny glass face in


because you have been taken again

in a world of takers.

Ghost Horses of the Motor City

We are headed back down to the motor city

in a few weeks.

To catch a music concert at Ford Field

and eat in Greektown.

The place we are staying at in midtown is a group

of four converted stable houses which some purport

to be haunted.

Haunted by what, who knows:

one of those sobbing period women who stand in windows

in strange dress always moaning about something

or the classic slammer of doors perhaps

or some ghost horses clopping around eternity.

It is a converted stable after all.

I don’t want the others, but the ghost horses would

be okay.

Disembodied snorting from the end of the bed.

And a shuttle every fifteen minutes to take you

into downtown Detroit.


Stumble into the wall

and blame the wall.

Trip over the sidewalk

and stare back accusingly

over the sidewalk.

Fall down half a flight of stairs

and curse the many angles

of modern carpentry.

The cut and grain of the wood.

The railing too far off to make

a difference.

Sooner or later

it will have to be your


But no one said it had

to be today.

Pete’s Car Wash

We are parked on the gravel

outside Pete’s Car Wash

in the new industrial park

outside of town

waiting for one of the wash bays

to open up.

Waiting our turn just as our parents once taught us we must

even though she is an only child

and my memories of the playground

are not so fond.

I hope we don’t get the one with the nesting birds

on the lighting grill,

she says,

they always attack the vehicle

and I feel bad.

I pretend not to know why they would choose

such a lousy nesting sight,

but the light provides warmth

and the circling hawk above

is hard to miss.

The board of education parks all its school buses

for the area

in a yard across the street.

The buses look strange and unfamiliar

without children in them.

As though things are meant to do things

just as people are meant to do things

and when they do not, they seem

out of place.

Like candy apple at a funeral.

When it is our turn

we get the wash bay with the nesting


One male, one female,

and their young.

Swooping down and squawking

so that we try to be quick

as we can.

Orson Welles




































The assassin levelled me against the ledge of the window

and I had a perfect view of everything.

People pay lots of money for a view like this.

And then it was a waiting game.

The clock on the wall saying the same thing over and over again:

tick tock tick tock tick…

most unoriginal under the circumstances.

And when the time came, I felt a single strong recoil

through my back and shoulders.

Then I was back in the case and it was dark

and we must have been running down many flights of stairs

because they would not stop screaming out in pain

each time they were stepped on.

Hairy Situations

Never trust a bearded man.

His face has something to hide

even if he does not.

There are an army of razors out there

and still he does not partake.

Ask yourself why.

Caged rabbits eating their own black pellet feces

for luck.

I am a bearded man.

Do not trust me either.

I am looking for ways to fool you

right now

even though you may not

know it.

Pro-life Poem

Office illumination

perched on the incandescent

desk lamp precipice

talked down from jumping

by the janitorial


there are things to live for:

industrial vacuums in the dark

Memphis barbecue

pool skimmers with lizards living

in them…

The higher learning of schools

of fish.

And do not forget the sacrifice of aging stairwells.

Anything that goes down on office buildings

is fine in my books.

Creaky with arthritis.

The stapler joining paper in bent


While the garbage is emptied of its daily guts

so we can start again.

Pro-choice Poem

I call the pizza joint along Paris

and place an order for one large pizza

with four toppings

what to choose?

what to choose?

I’ll have bacon, ham, and pepperoni,

I say.

That’s only three, you have one more.

How about some pineapple, make it a Hawaiian?

Fruit on pizza?, I scratch my head,

that is not really me.

I go for vegetables before fruit

and even that is pushing it.

How about mushrooms or onions then?,

the phone asks.

Ah, hell no, mushrooms belong in the dirt

and onions make people cry.

I’m trying to be more positive this year,

so no onions.

Can I get chicken on it?,

I ask.

The phone tells me that chicken counts as two.

How about sausage?, I say.

The phone says that is good.

And it comes with a free six pack of coke

or you can mix and match.

Wow, you guys are really enlightened, I say,

make it two coke, two orange crush,

and two root beer.

The adventurous type, the phone laughs

plugging in my order.

And it comes with an order of cheesy breadsticks,

but the wings and potato skins are extra.

The breadsticks sound good,

I say.

And that comes with your choice of sauce:

garlic Caesar, ranch, or marinara?

Definitely Caesar, in spite of what Brutus

did to him.

Very good, the phone says.

And is that for pickup or delivery?

Delivery, I say,

my car is in the shop.

And is that all?, asks the phone.

It is.

That comes to $16.75.

How would you like to pay:

Visa, Interac, or MasterCard?

Can I pay in cash?,

I ask.

You sure can.

Is that everything?

It is.

Thanks for choosing *********.


We say our goodbyes

and it is


Sex Tape with a Woman in a Vegetative State

He borrowed an old Hi-8 camera from a friend

and set it on the ledge of the bathroom vanity overlooking

his parent’s soaker tub

and he raided the refrigerator of all its vegetables

and built the likeness of a woman out of them,

then he took off all his clothes and pressed play

and got on top of the vegetable woman in the soaker tub

and pumped away until he finished.

And he talked dirty the whole time

into her ears of corn.

Sucking on her baby carrot nipples

until his lips were orange.

Then he uploaded the 7 minute video to YouTube

under the title: Sex Tape with a Woman in a Vegetative State.

To his surprise, it had more than a million hits in under 24 hours

before it was taken down.

When he was done with the vegetables he put them back in the fridge.

His mother’s weekly book club stir-fries never tasting so good.

Emergency Preparedness in the CBD

She has just come back from the Central Business District

with blood on her.

She tells me it is fake.

A concoction of food colouring and sugar water.

That they are doing emergency preparedness drills

and asked her if she would volunteer

as a victim.

She says they gave her lunch and everything.

Painted her up like a dead body

and asked her to lay on the pavement

for a few hours.

As the emergency services cleared the area

and took her vitals.

Traffic backed up worse than usual

so they could know if they

were ready.

An Open Letter to Flies

I apologise for the recent strips of fly paper, seems

rather drastic I know,

but your buzzing has become intolerable

of late, the many eyes upon me

at all hours

your maggot offspring in my sink

where the dishes go

we must have boundaries, countries do it

and seem to get good results

which reminds me: why are you always

trying to fly in my nose and ears?

What may seem a natural den of procreation

is in fact a biological way for me to breathe and hear

and live.

It is not that I wish to deny anything else its health

or general well-being, but your continued presence is harming mine.

Always buzzing against the windows from which you came.

If you want out so badly, then why did you ever come in?

Please leave me alone and I will endeavour to do the same.

Sincerely yours,

xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx

Sandwiches by the River

He suggested sandwiches by the river

and she was nervous

because they still hadn’t found his

last girlfriend.

He reassured her that she had picked up

and left town over a year ago

and that he had nothing to do

with that.

So she went with him for sandwiches

down by the river.

A picnic blanket spread out

along the shore.

Isn’t it beautiful?, he remarked

looking out over the


Yes very beautiful,

she agreed.

It’s so scenic and secluded, he smiled,

no one would ever know

you were here.

Get Well Soon

My nerves are shot.

They were ambushed outside a popular disco

in a past life.

Riddled indiscriminately with hollow-point bullets.

It is too early to tell which ones will pull through

and which are finished.

There is no motive and no witnesses.

No one to speak to with helpful information.

Just me and my nerves.

And this get well soon card

in the window

from Mrs. Gunpowder.

Blood in the Stool

There are many of them all lined up

beside the bar

and you choose the one at the end

because distance is the great equalizer,

knowing the armies cannot surround you now

the same way a cornered animal always keeps its

back to the wall

and the bartender keeps pouring

because that is his job

and you keep drinking in the afternoon

when you don’t have one

the crapper close enough to frequent,

but not to smell

billiard cues mounted on the wall like

fuzzy green beer nut samurais

and you begin to take a liking to your stool

the more you’ve been through together,

becoming short and possessive because it is

your stool and no one else’s

and you would carve your initials into it

but there is blood in the stool

and things would get messy when

you still want to sit there.

The Night I Crawled into my Own Bellybutton and Died

A moment of weakness to be sure, all men have them

and some more than others

and I had just lost my job

and gotten into the pill cabinet again

the darkness a sickly sulphur smell that made the nostrils bleed

red with fear

and like a coward I pulled the blankets up over my head

but it was not enough

a tremendous writhing ache as though someone was running away

with my only feet

and like a rank amateur I panicked and gave it up

contorting the body in such a way that I was able to crawl

inside my own bellybutton

and I was surprised to find a history there:

cave paintings on the walls, a momma bear and her cubs

lost to slumber, bones ground down to microbes

and much bacteria so that I quickly grew ill

and died

having never watched pornography backwards

to look for hidden massages.

Drag Racers

They both stood at the end of his parent’s driveway

in the dark. Each with a cigarette in their mouth.

Sparking up and burning the cherry at the same time.

A third friend to officiate so that there was no disagreement.

The first one to smoke down to the filter won.

What they won, nobody could be certain.

Bragging rights perhaps, but when you live in a town

of 607 people where water treatment and sewage

is the largest employer, ask yourself:

is there ever really a winner?

Church and State

He has a pet ferret

and I ask him what it does

and he says it does nothing

so I ask him why he

has it.

To separate myself, he says,

anyone can have a cat or a dog

but how many people do you know

with a pet ferret?

I shrug my shoulders.

He is the only one.

When he lets it sit on his neck

it makes me think of a fur coat

but I don’t tell him that.

He seems so close with his ferret

ever since his wife left


With some love toy

twenty years her junior.

Which was perhaps her way

of separating herself



“O Stereo, Stereo
wherefore art thou Stereo”

cries some tiny Filipino man on his little grey thrift shop knees

hands clasped together tight like the end of clapping

in the middle of the pawnshop

trying to get something out of hock no doubt

my powers of perception would suggest a stereo perhaps

and an attachment deeper than with all the children

he may have fathered on the bottle;

that’s right, babies are conceived on the bottle

just as much as they as raised on it,

the parents often finding it harder to wean off

than their spawn

and this one seems no exception,

where he got his Shakespeare I haven’t the faintest.

Perhaps that is what they read in the men’s shelters these days.

Once the bible crowd thinned out to swell the ranks

of evening bingo.

Buyer’s Market

A few hundred men for three positions

and you can’t help but look around,

realize you are twenty years the junior

of most anyone in there

and less experienced.

Their wives have helped them lie on their resumes

just the same as your new girlfriend has helped you lie

on yours.

Googled the most appealing fonts and sizes

for prospective bosses.

Made up character references as though you never once

tried to cum in your own ass with the help

of a shoehorn.

And the waiting room is a blood sport.

They positon the chairs facing each other

like they asked the fingernail pullers of every banana republic junta for advice

on how to make things most uncomfortable.

The fans turned off for effect.

The first to pick up the women’s magazines scattered

around the tables trying to play it nonchalant,

and everyone knows he is a write-off.

The pros sit straight up and stare you right in the eye,

hold their resume out as though it is the Declaration

of Independence.

Looking for tells

like any good game

of poker.

Never uttering a word so you imagine their voices

much lower than they are.

And you are young, so you do not get the job.

Most times the position is filled and they never even get to you.

Just an announcement over the PA to go away.

Followed by the long walk home trying to explain failure again

to a woman with her mother always in her ear, trying not to go

back to the bottle as her mother attempts to set her up with someone else.

It seems there are options.

But they are never you.

And two days later you are in another waiting room

back at it again.

The fans turned off.

The chairs set in opposition.

Another few hundred of the dead and desperate

all vying for one position.

Doing things

they would have never done before

to make it.

The Big News is No News at All

She stuffed a small pillow under her shirt

and posed the pictures in such a way

that she was caressing her belly

and she sent the pictures to friends

and family

who congratulated her on being pregnant

and she got one of those “Baby on Board” stickers

put on her back window

just like all her pregnant friends had

and starting parking in the spots reserved for expecting mothers

and no one knew anything was up until

someone asked how far along she was

and she answered that a good woman never tells

and when they asked about the father

she said he was in prison

and when they asked which prison

she told them the big one

with bars.

Then the pillow fell out one afternoon

while talking to a friend in a CVS parking lot.

She picked it up, dusted it off and said she had decided

to name it Amy.

Then she sped off with Amy in tow.

And word got around as it does,

that she had not.

Chance is Never on the List























Multiple Shooters

One lined up after the other

to be downed on your birthday

twenty or thirty odd coloured beakers in a large metal structure

that holds them all in place

as though you are back in grade eleven Chemistry class

but you have somehow become the experiment,

each beaker containing a different brand of poison:

two dozen ways to kill Socrates, and your friends

choose them all;

it is the cumulative effect that is most pleasurable

for the masses

a bullet riddled body when one behind the ear

will suffice,

and the Spanish run the bulls like clockwork, gore themselves

over a frenzied jagged cobblestone

as you throw each one back, the laughter and cheers

intermingling into some rangy under arm deodorant

horror show,

and later over the toilet, you feel as though you will die

but a working chronological history of liver functions knows better

and when it is their turn you will be every bit as kind,

cracking raw eggs over their naked passed out body

and leaving them in a public park.

Thai Friendship Bracelet

Her package comes in the mail.

A blue summer purse with elephants on it

that drapes down over her hip.

The tag she cuts away says: Made in Thailand.

The package also includes a tiny pink Thai friendship bracelet

which she puts on her left wrist.

She says that was very thoughtful of them.

Her first ever friendship bracelet.

It is not until I am sitting on the throne

in the upstairs bathroom with my lucky four leaf clover boxers

down around my ankles some hours later

that I read the tag at the back:

100% cotton. Made in Thailand.

When I have flushed and finished I yell down

to her that I feel jipped.

Shorted one Thai friendship bracelet

even though my lucky Irish boxers likely came

from the very same sweatshop as

her purse.

GO BACK TO BED, she laughs,


I tell her I do not want her bracelet.

I want mine.

The Real-Estate Developer

He is up each morning

the real-estate developer

building sandcastles on the beach below

with a purple pail and a yellow plastic shovel

his work tools, the tools of his trade,

and halfway out the front door

on his way to work

he stops to kiss a hat rack with a styrofoam head

on the cheek

(his wife of many years)

before taking the elevator



The clavicle broke like sudden news

verandas constructed out of stubby hitchhiker thumbs

and moldy fence twine

so that people tumbled down stairs while others did not

a distant fan belt slapping the surface of things less known:

ketamine sales and snooker tables over for dinner

the infidelity of silkworms;

zingers one after the other like train cars

down the line

boxy and impervious, the same way an overly plump aunt may seem

when you are five;

off of mother’s milk and onto other things

women still a few years away in the carnal sense

and so you pump the legs of playground swings

so high you can feel the back of you falling off

and that feeling in your stomach as though you could be sick

at any moment but somehow never are,

letting go at the summit, trying to out jump the other boys

falling awkwardly on your shoulder in such a way

that something snaps.

Arresting Images

All the cities are occupied, otherwise it would be really quiet

and he grabbed his camera from around his neck

played with the aperture real friendly-like

as if it were some strange woman’s soft ringlets of hair on the bus

and when the constable came he brought his friends

and they arrested all the images in the camera

and took them downtown

and it was hard to take their fingerprints

because pictures don’t have them

so they fingerprinted the photographer instead

and put his camera into evidence.

Injecting Humour

Brain surgery is beyond my scope of practice.

Most things are.

But I have always been good with needles.

Injecting humour into poems.

Not all poems require humour.

But many should have a little here and there.

If for no other reason than to even out,

to broaden the working spectrum.

Most poems have a humour deficiency.

Like taking calcium pills and your B12.

I have injected this poem with just enough humour

to get by.

You don’t want your poems getting hooked

on the stuff.

There is malpractice to think of, lawsuits,

negligence causing death,

all that…

Jumbo jets with brown leather tassels for wings

falling headstrong out of the once flatulent


Silence of the Yams

Walking past this car in midtown

I heard this man cussing out

his passenger.

When I looked inside I realized

his passenger was not a person at all,

but a bag of yams.

He was angry because it would not answer him.

Shaking it violently as though ringing its neck.

Then he got out and heaved the bag of yams

across the street.

Shouting many unsavoury things.

Skidding his tires in the road

as he sped off in anger.

Government Informant

I am a paid informant for the feds.

I don’t know if that is the sort of thing you are supposed to talk about,

but I have never really had a filter.

Use your indoor voice, the missus warns all the time,

and I am supposed to know that I have crossed the line again.

Talked about things you are not supposed to talk about.

Made everyone feel awkward.

I am a paid informant for the feds, they just don’t know it.

They have yet to pay me anything, but I don’t hold a grudge.

I consider it back pay for my many years of loyal service.

Spreading disinformation as though the Yeti

is on sabbatical.

Stop telling everyone you are a government informant,

she pleads,

people believe everything.

And there is no reason to doubt her testimony.

I report my findings to my superiors

through stuffed animal


YOUR INDOOR VOICE, she chides,


I lean in and whisper

that there has never been anyone

but her.

She wraps me in a big bear hug.

Kisses me on the right cheek several times.

It’s true.

People really do believe


Sports Buff

He takes his head off his shoulders

and I look down his neck.

There is no need to call a plumber.

I remove the obstruction with a pair of tweezers.

Then he puts his head back on his shoulders

like before.

Asks me who won the game the other night.

I tell him I have no idea.

Disturbing the Peace

Money switches hands by the register

and he yells: Commerce!

You see that there?

That is what makes the world

go ‘round.

And a few of the people in line

in front of him give up their place

which is mighty fine of them

in a philanthropic sense.

Shuffling out of the store at a quickened pace

as though they are late for dinner

and a show.

When he gets to the front of the line,

the kid behind the cash looks


Pink hair, how very dramatic!

If only more people looked like candy floss

and less like people.

A police cruiser speeds up to the entrance

and two gentlemen get out

brandishing guns.


You see that there?

Any man who doubts himself

will always dread


Taking Vitamins to the Prom

Volleys of shipwrecked insults share a one night ocean bed of stale vodka breath and regret. Lines of traffic like motorized cocaine. The cartels all enrolled in ESL classes run by our late district attorney. And I find myself in the discarded pinecone sense. Taking vitamins to the prom. Blimps shot out the sky like morbidly obese ducks. This city on lockdown. The schools full of urinals and blackboards and rumour. Cheer squad pyramids like Egypt on the cheap. Even the doghouse with a thing for cats. Judgements at Nuremburg and in this very house: what to eat? When to dog-ear moldy book pages into lazy war dead remembrance? Y, just the second to last letter of someone’s crooked alphabet, and hardly a question at all.

All the best of everything and nothing. Adultery caught on film like yellowfin tuna in nets. A light show – call it otherworldly if you must. Set the conspiracy nuts to all manner of anonymous message board jabbering. I don’t like the way things are and I don’t like the way things could be. Assigned parking to avoid identity theft. Nuclear meltdown on a personal level. And the president of this and the prime minister of that. Snipers on aging rooftops and alligators in the drinking water.

Torture does not happen. The death of the wombat is just soup. The important thing is that you are moderately comfortable within the present working order. Holding your breath in chlorinated pools. Feeling safe enough to shave your legs in the presence of angry bald men and still hum the national anthem. Movies from India where everyone is always dancing. The strange aching colour of that. And tortilla flat women. And watered lawns in dry counties. The way I walk down streets should not be forgotten by others’ biographers.

My Floor is not my Ceiling

The fix is in, I knew it.

My floor is not my ceiling

even when I stand on

my head.

The shortcomings of pygmies

should never be the undoing of others.

I close the window and open it again.

The breeze is still there against the screen

like some midnight peep freak.

I feel naked in clothes.

Believe garden hoses belong to the occult.

The heat turned up high

and the world cold

as ever.

People ripping off their legs below the knee

and mailing them to self-defence classes

in the city.

And where is Shaka Zulu?

His giant spear of empire would do well

in the adult film industry.

Can’t you see him learning to golf in Beverly Hills?

Bashing the shrunken heads of lonely unicycles

across acres of replica green?

I know this girl who takes photographs of the backs of toads

and pawns them off as frogs,

a true charlatan.

We have never slept together,

but if we did I just know she would

hate it.

Like running a napkin across your face

and finding nothing

when you know it’s there.

That’s the type of lover I am.

I can see her telling me something just like that

in her manly ball sack


Deep in the same way most ocean life

never comes up for air.

Real throaty, like the ghost of Vincent Price

reading the Magna Carta

off a troupe of underwear models.

Confetti-smeared and passive aggressive.

The same way a tube of toothpaste never calls you unsanitary

but always sits right beside the sink.

A Child Named Armpit Fart

I took a balled up snotty tissue

from my left pant pocket

and threw it in her drink

at a party where no one was dancing

and she demanded to know why

I had done that

and I said it was to be closer

to her.

And she walked away in disgust.

Some people just don’t understand intimacy.

Sitting in pool furniture

under the stars.

Picking at skin tags

that should have married

and had children

named Rocco

or Armpit Fart



Muscle Building Agent

His card said he was in real-estate

but he was big and put together the same way

an eighteen wheeler eats up road

so I could tell,

and I pretended to be buying a home for the first time

leaning in close when we were alone

asking him if he was not a real-estate agent at all

but rather one of those muscle building agents

the Olympic committee so frowned upon,

you know: delts and pecs and all that business…

personal bests like holding your breath in space forever

and he pulled away like a slingshot in human form

and looked at me the same way your stomach lining would glare at food poisoning

if it had eyes

and it was then that I knew I would never know

the answer.

Tit for Tats

It was summer and she wore a tan tank top

which would show off her new ink

and some of the older ink as well

one breast covered in it like a children’s colouring book

and she sat in the chair across from him

and since he hadn’t said a thing in over five minutes

she asked what he thought

and when he tipped the bottle back into his mouth

and said nothing once more

she got angry and stormed out.

For his part, he just kept staring straight ahead

to where the woman had been sitting

which begs the question:

was he ever staring at her to begin with

or was it the chair all along?

He had been staring at the chair before she sat down.

Perhaps her presence had just obscured his view

as he politely waited for her to leave.

In such a reading of the situation

he had been a complete gentleman

and she had behaved rather poorly.

Bowling Balls


if there were more bowling alleys

in some of these countries

there would be less of an inclination

to decapitate westerners

and roll their heads through

the streets.

Maybe I am wrong.

It would hardly be the first time.

Yes yes, they demand their ransom money,

but what I think they really want

are bowling balls.

And a few bumper lanes to start off.

For beginners because everyone has

to start somewhere.

On some unconscious level

they want to enter into a bowling league

under some cheeky pseudonym

Allah would approve


A trophy for the winner.

Modest in presentation, of course.

Anyone who bowls a perfect game

winning a trip for two

to Mecca.

Coming Attractions


was a prison

long before it

became a tourist


In much the same way

my friend’s older sister

has not always stripped

for money.

Veranda Rights

They read him his Miranda rights

along the side of the road

and he was in such a state

that he thought he had caught them,

screaming that verandas did not

have rights

even though he had nothing

against such advancement

and as they cuffed him

and shoved his head down

into the back of the cruiser

and called it in,

he was irate:

you people are crazy,

verandas don’t have rights

and I did nothing to


Throw a Lightbulb at a Dead Rhino
and Call it Fire

I’ve heard the recordings.

All those hours of you speaking badly about me.

The many federal boys in ill-fitting suits were by

to see if they could get something to hold up in court

other than the murals of old dead men

that used to work the gavel.

But I gave them nothing.

Sorry, that is not true.

There was coffee and a cheese platter

and the card of my friend in the city

who pretends to be an electrician by trade

whenever he is on parole

even though he’d try to throw a lightbulb at a dead rhino

and call it fire.

And also a few bags of garbage that never made it out last week

and stunk to the high heavens

so I guess I gave them a lot.

Not as much as you it would seem

Ms. Chatty Box,

but I’m still a fine


Anything for a Laugh

We are at this comedy club in the west end.

There are three comics and none of them are funny.

The first is some nasally Indian kid who makes car horn noises

for ten and a half minutes.

Then an old drunk who slams his ex-wife

in a way he hasn’t slammed anything

in years.

The headliner is a fat woman who wants you to know

that she is fat and undesirable and single.

She is the best of the bunch,

but everything is so dry, so well-rehearsed.

Predictable as a casino taking 2/3rds of gambler’s anonymous

for rent money.

Everyone applauding, a few whistles with fingers in mouth.

Wanting things to be humorous when they are not.

I haven’t seen this much desperation since Nam.

And the lighting is awful.

A single spotlight like searching the night sky

for bombers.

Why don’t we get out of this slaughterhouse?, I keep asking

but no one answers.

The missus squeezing my hand to let me know

that I am being rude.

The drinks watered down to piss

and sold at 300% mark up.

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