People have been trained to turn in their neighbors.
It’s the mood of the country.
Call 911 if you hear a crying baby.
No one can afford to walk away.

It’s the mood of the country.
The animals are skittish.
No one can afford to walk away.
There’s no fuck–you money.

The animals are skittish.
Set up a Facebook page that shows you care.
There’s no fuck-you money.
Get pics of you holding dying children.

Set up a Facebook page that shows you care.
It’s the smell of the land.
Get pics of you holding dying children.

It’s the smell of the land.
Tell them you love naked children but only when they’re starving.
Be sure it goes on the college application.

Tell them you love naked children but only when they’re starving.
My daughter’s writing an essay on Steven Biko.
Be sure it goes on the college application.
If she doesn’t get into Duke, Vanderbilt will do.

My daughter’s writing an essay on Steven Biko.
The water tastes funny.
If she doesn’t get into Duke, Vanderbilt will do.
The horses won’t stand still.

The water tastes funny.
She’s volunteering at the valley hospital.
The horses won’t stand still.
She better run for office, too, and join the chorus.

She’s volunteering at the valley hospital.
Have you tried the hibiscus and blackcurrant tea?
She better run for office, too, and join the chorus.
My wife recommends the Vegan Victoria with strawberry and rhubarb.

Have you tried the hibiscus and blackcurrant tea?
I prefer the rye toast with parsley puree.
My wife recommends the Vegan Victoria with strawberry and rhubarb.
Tell them you love naked children but only when they’re starving.

On Finding a 19-Year-Old Woman’s Body in a Hotel Freezer

The wildebeest kick for their lives,
rushing to escape the jaws of ravenous
crocodiles. They climb, fighting for survival,
desperate to make their way out of the water.
They claw their way up the muddy banks. From
there they gallop. Their progress depends desperately,
fatefully, tragically on ignoring the fallen. There is no
going back for the weak, the distracted, or the ill. None
will return to fight off the predators, especially that most
treacherous of all, bad luck. The alert survive and, then,
the lucky. She wasn’t paying attention when the door
closed behind her and then, by chance, there was no one
outside to help.

Declarations of Concern

We care. My concern is that you don’t
care enough. Please share a moment
from your busy day to demonstrate
how much you care. We wonder how
anyone can get through the day without
lending a hand to one’s fellow man or woman.
It’s the burden of commitment, an act
of compassion, empathy on display for
all to see. Go ahead: bend over. We are
eager to see evidence of your devotion.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate
your compassion? Did you cry when you first saw
the space shuttle exploding in mid-flight? Perhaps
you are not a patriot. Did you weep the night
Hillary lost to the Donald? Perhaps you are
not fit to vote. Have you donated your stock
profits to the starving masses of the Sudan or
remembered Ukraine? Perhaps you are not
fit to walk among fellow members of the human
race. Perhaps you are deplorable.

And what of Otto Warmbier, the young corpse?
Did you pray for his soul or are you a fan of Kim
Jong-un? Perhaps you are too cosmopolitan to
fall victim to grief. I understand. You’ve attended
classes on screaming down your enemies and
practiced public spitting. You prefer to dress
in black and smash your enemies
over the head, while splashing acid.

I just got off the phone with one of the concerned.
She’s an operator with We Care, a national distributor
of disposable diapers. Their dispatcher neglected
to pick up our child’s soiled goods. No new diapers
were delivered despite our having signed a one-year
contract. The diapers were in fact delivered next door.
Now our neighbors can be seen wearing our son’s
diapers. Our boy is irate. He spends his days lying in
his own waste, bawling at the top of his lungs. His first
words were “No one cares.” When the police arrive,
they shoot him.

Two, four, six, eight! Who do we appreciate?
My advice? Don’t call the operator a cunt. Give
in. Smile. Tell her you have a concern. Learn
from your mistakes. Don’t give out your Social
Security number. Join the snowbirds in Florida.
Save your money. Tell your teacher the dog ate
your homework. Don’t believe your philosophy
professor when he says God is dead. Invest in
Disney. Don’t buy Premium. Wash your own
car. If you catch James Bond, don’t leave him
tied up while you confer with your henchmen.
Kill him.


Mary had a little lamb
sliced paper thin and tucked away
into her pita with spicy peppers from Persia.
Mary took a bite and declared it, for all who would listen,
good. She said, “boo,” to scare away the pigeons.

Mary’s older brother, Joe, had something
else in mind when he woke that morning
with a stiffy. His thoughts turned to making
money, so he bought ten Disney stocks before breakfast.

Mary’s sister Priscilla sat waiting at the curb,
hoping to be picked up by a boy in a pink Cadillac.
She heard that back in 1957, Elvis Presley once
picked up a girl at this very corner and when she
came back three hours later, she was wearing a big grin.

Mary’s mother was that very girl, the one picked up
that day in 1957. He took her to his leopard skin-
covered den and they played canasta. They ate
peanut butter sandwiches and when she tried to kiss him,
he pushed her away and called her nasty.

Mary’s mother never lived down that day.
She’d wanted to put her tongue all the way down Elvis’s
throat. Instead, he turned her over to his pals, a bunch of idiots
from White Haven, Tennessee, who liked to drink
Michelob and fart out loud.

Mary’s mother, whose name was Trish, felt humiliated
when the boys demanded her panties. One guy took them
in his hands and shot them, like a rubber band, across the room.
They landed on the antlers of a dead deer
whose head hung above Elvis’s RCA.

When Mary’s mother, Trish, got home,
her parents demanded to know what had happened.
Had Elvis behaved himself, had he been a gentleman?
Trisha told them everything they wanted to know,
but she didn’t say she was still wearing Gus Chandler’s

Priscilla, Mary’s little sister, spent her entire life
envying Trish. She, too, wanted the boys to take her panties.
She hoped someone would ask to look up her skirt.
The fact that nobody did, made Priscilla feel bad.
To this day, she sulks in her room and eats Haagen-Dazs
ice cream. She weighs 217 pounds.

You’ve met everyone in Mary’s family now except
her daddy, Nash. Nash Castle was a frat boy from
the University of Arkansas, a Bus. Ad. major who dropped
out when his girl got pregnant. Trish used to sit
naked on the floor of his dorm room, with her legs spread
out. He’d roll oranges toward her pussy and when
he hit it, she’d give his cock a little kiss.

Nash and Trish Castle came to Memphis in 1963. Trish was
a housewife and Nash worked for the Southern Bell. They’re
dead now. There’s only Priscilla left, who lives all alone in a
once white neighborhood that’s gone black. She’s lost all her teeth,
so everyone knows she can’t bite. The boys line up at her back door
and hand her $5. She closes her eyes and thinks of Elvis’s Cadillac.

Southern Comfort

Why do Southerners romanticize dreck?
They positively gush over everything in sight,
including the weeds covering the telephone poles
along the highway. Kudzu, an invasive weed,
is treated like gorse. Southerners are proud of it,
like everything else they grow.

Kudzu is nothing to be proud of, but Peter Taylor is.
“Light in August” is something to get excited about.
Tennessee Williams knew a thing or two, but is he
invited to the Liberty Bowl? What of Eudora Welty?
Guess again.

We lunched in the backyard with the dogs. Prime Minister,
the neighbor’s English bulldog, humped our legs while King Faisal
and his Queen, Afghan hounds, chased imaginary hares
through the trees. There are memories, too, of Frankenstein
and the Mummy, but JFK’s assassination made death less

Yes, the BBQ is divine, but where else, pray tell, would one
accept slices of Wonder Bread as a side? They were serving
sliced bread when I was a kid back in 1960. It’s as if Starbucks
today served Sanka. Or old black men were still wearing women’s
stockings on their heads when they cut the yard.

Consider the case of Johnny Cash. With a voice like that,
he didn’t need to dance. Having a mother who preferred
Elvis undermined one’s confidence. He stood for something
that is now long gone. Who knew then the country was going to hell?
But, you know, for Memphians, this, too, is just another
thing to be proud of. Let’s face it.

Southerners are taught to be proud of everything
including what they leave in the toilet.
That’s the problem. Is there to be no discrimination?
Can’t dreck be called dreck without crying about
the Lost Cause and all that shit?

But there are fond memories. Between the dogwoods
and the azaleas there was enough color. It was the blossoms
of magnolias that drew one’s attention, to say nothing
of their shiny leaves. The Japanese love cherry blossoms
because they are fragile, so too the magnolia’s readiness
to wilt. Its silken white is so quick to turn to soot.

Not that I don’t love kudzu. I think it’s beautiful, growing as it does
on the side of the road, draped over the electric lines and choking out the pines.
I love it. And that’s not all. I just adore pecan pie, too, as well as coleslaw,
and, even more, that great flow of mud they call the Mighty Mississippi.
There’s a lot to love in the South, but why must I love that fucking weed?


“Congratulations” is an excerpt from David Lohrey’s new anthology, Bluff City. You can purchase the book from Terror House Press here.