Laugh it Off

sometimes I remember
all the hardass “work dads”
who raised me
when I was a young lad
and feel sorry
for them

because now I understand
how exhausting it is
to maintain that military demeanor
to never show weakness
never crack a smile
or laugh unless
it’s at someone
to stay in character all day
and keep up that shtick
long after you’re tired of it
like a method actor
trapped inside
a stranger’s soul

all because
you were taught
is what the world
and manhood requires
of you

and to look in the mirror
at day’s end and see the lines
scowling has etched
in your forehead
to sigh and say to yourself—
I’ll be damned…
Mom was right—
my face really did
get stuck this way

and then
to just laugh it off
and pour another drink
because that
is all

How Do Ya Not See?

My coworker Tony
is completely unfiltered.
Says whatever pops into his head.
Now he asks, in reference
to our other coworker,
the perpetually stoned JD—
How the fuck do ya put a pan
caked with scrambled eggs
back on the rack?
How do ya not see that?

Tony’s 20 years older than I.
He carries a hundred pounds
of beer belly and
wears the thickest pair
of glasses I’ve ever seen
on the bridge of a full-blown,
veiny, alcoholic nose.
They dilate his eyes
to double their size
and make him appear
twice as insane
as he awaits an answer
to what I’d foolishly assumed
was a rhetorical question.

He’s holding the offending pan
in one hand
and a large knife
he was chopping vegetables with
in the other.

I dunno, man…I say.
It’s amazing what people
don’t see though…right?

He laughs. Says—
A-Fuckin’-Men to that!
Full New Yawk accent.

Oh, the Knots Her Soul May Tie

it was probably after
one of our famous
3-day meth binges
I awakened to the sound
of giggling

what the hell’s so funny
I asked
you were talking
in your sleep
she said
what’d I say?
well I was playing with your
dick and you pushed
my hand away
and said you were
saving your orgasms
and when I asked
for who you said
for company
then I asked
who’s coming over
and you said you
didn’t know them yet

she couldn’t stop laughing
about this as I growled
and rooted in the fridge
for a beer

that was so long ago
and I’m not sure
why I remember it
but it makes sense now
given how sharing orgasms
with complete strangers
leads to nothing
as long as you
wrap that rascal
while sharing them
with her led to a year
of hell and many more
in the burn unit

I guess
if you need a moral
it’s this—
never fall for a woman
who brags about
being born the same day
as Marilyn Monroe

one who can tie a half hitch
in a cherry stem
using just her tongue

Why I Hate Working Again

because although I still like
to imagine myself spontaneous
and malleable as a child
this proves I am nothing much
but an aging heap
of old habits

back on the job
less than a week and
already my switch is flipped
back to “Go” mode
I drink too much coffee
I scream at traffic
my mind spins in the same
well-worn ruts
churns like a blender
filled with anxiety
gotta do this…gotta do that
gotta get it done now!

like yesterday when my
co-worker called in sick
and I did both our jobs
it’s like a neon sign flashes
in my brain—
“get it done, motherfucker!”
because I’m a blue collar champion
and I’ll show them!

after all…I’ve been
so amply rewarded
in the past, right?
usually by an extra
fifty cents or buck an hour
for carrying a double load
I guess that’s a fair price
for my days and my aches
and pains which have
already reappeared

now I hear the whip crack
even on my days off
because those
are once again
too few and far between

now I dig in my heels
as the clock grasps my leash
and its indomitable hands
drag me bellowing toward a future
that never arrives