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by Bruce Taylor

was a fat man with a thin mustache,
bad teeth and a funny hat,
who read three newspapers a day
and fell asleep on the couch,

a brute with a belt
and a hell of a backhand
a big pile of shit
or a shower of gold

a skinny chicken-legged
badly balding guy with
hardly any ass at all
jogging towards the 7-11
at 10:57 for Schlitz. 

The guy at the bend
of a horse-shoe bar
peeling big bills off
a wad from his pocket,    
lotslouder than the rest.  

The gut-gone loose shooter
eight-balling for beer,
one sly eye in the pocket
of every move the barmaid makes,
he'll snag her yet upon
his hooky smile, he thinks,

That'll Be the Day, she plays
back on the jukebox
You Can't Always Get What You Want.

The bleary old rummy, teary   
eyed in the mirror with
a couple of dollars left,
a sucker for the 'B' sides

maybe he'll play It Happened  
in Monterey
, maybe Angel Eyes,
one more time and leave.

that cool silver-haired old dude
in the sharp black jacket
     and a spiffy pair of shoes--
in a tiny, gray and white, button-flap
     checkered cap and a pin in his lapel
who is always going somewhere
     running his errands, making the rounds

the kind of a guy has to
     draw pictures when he talks
on the back of napkin or
     scrawl something approximate
across a scrap of an envelope

     there's this letter to mail
and the Light Bill to pay
and the Buick to get gassed and washed,
     and the list his wife leaves
him everyday, and he's been looking
everywhere, he says, for a little
copper washer, about this big,

"OK," he's always saying, "I got
to run, I got to go. "The Optimist,
     The Moose or Shriner,
The Foreign Legionnaire, the Knight of Columbus,

who's always raffling off something
collecting something for
some worthy cause or another
     selling lightbulbs for the blind
or paper flowers for the sleeping dead.

All dogs and children awaiting
his flat ascending steps
up the steepest hill
for miles around,
hunched over, hands deep
into the jingle of his pockets

full of keys and key chain,
change purse, small change,
clean hanky, subway tokens, Tums
and Lifesavers or better yet,

Chiclets, or cough-drops, or gum
he'd give some to any grandchild
who could spell his word for the day
or who had learned another verse
from Proverbs or the Psalms

with his good felt hat in his hand
and his jacket folded neatly
over the other shoulder,
and his always white shirt
and his pin for perfect attendance
in the too wide or too narrow
lapel of his second best suit

and his braces, belt
with initialed buckle,
vest, vest-chain, fob,
collar-stays, tie-pin,
cuff-links, Parker Pen
and Pencil set, glasses case,
address book and billfold

and if it was a Sunday   
his best blue suit
and his bible, the small one,
and a white boutonniere  
for his mother who was dead
and the envelopes for the offering.

was one of the quiet ones,  
who spent most of his time
in the cellar or garage
from right after supper
until everyone else was asleep,
puttering around with something,
fixing this or that, fixing it again

who sat in the dark in the kitchen
with the last cold cup of coffee
and smoked and hummed and thought
with the radio on low and tuned
to somewhere far off, fading
in and out, scratchy, oddly
operatic static ridden and remote
moody, bored, angry, tired, mute
in his male terror, huge,
hairlessly marbled, frontally nude,
smelling of whiskey and gasoline,
working hard, dying too soon.

Email: taylorb@facstaff.uwec.edu

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