Three Poems

Just Outside Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

Tina’s new thigh tattoo finally quit throbbing
but now it was itching and she doesn’t want
to rub it with the tow truck guy staring at her.
She turns to Karl: After they take the car
do you want to eat some potato chips
and drink bottle beer? Got some cold ones,
the futon has a clean blanket on it
and you ain’t seen my new tattoo yet.

What about your Uncle Jimmie, Karl asks,
and she says he won’t be around ‘til Thursday
when the welfare check comes.

He’s not really my uncle, you know,
he just wants me to call him that
so people don’t gossip about his visits.
Jimmie’s forty years older than me, after all,
which is why he don’t charge me much rent
to live in this rat-hole trailer.

Must be nice to have rich relatives,
related or not, says Karl after cursing
the tow truck repo guy who in turn
flips him the bird.

Tina gives in and rubs the tattoo.
You gotta watch out for my ex; he’s driving
a Ford pickup with an out-of-state plate.

Yeah, right. Let’s play with the tattoo
during halftime of the Packer game
then hitch into town.
How many beers you say you got?

Grocery Shopping For One

Even with one of the black plastic wheels
wobbling and grinding, pushing the wire
grocery cart through the faded supermarket
is not such a difficult chore for a grown man.
A package of hot dogs, mustard, beans,
cans of chicken noodle and tomato soup,
white bread, potato chips, ¼ watermelon…
They all look better on the shelves
or display cases than captive,
jumbled in the butterfly net of a wire cart.

Sometimes Ed puts both hands in
his pockets and bumps the cart along
with his taut belly, steering it, seeing how far
he can guide it before veering off course,
which is a good conversation starter with
female shoppers. They always smile.
Lastly he goes to the liquor department
for a couple of six-packs of Bud Light.

Rose, the checkout cashier, routinely shakes
her head as she rings up the cart’s contents.
Mister, you need to start paying better attention
to your nutrition, she says, and Ed replies that
after all he is only eatin’ what they are sellin’.
When the teenage female bagger asks if
he requires help getting his groceries to the car
he says yes, tipping her a dollar for her trouble.

If Ed still feels a need for company he drives
to the supermarket in the next block
and repeats the process.

Pickup Truck

Killing some time at a stoplight,
Ed writes down the license plate number
of the red Toyota ahead of him,
noting its color, make, style, dents.
The back of the female driver’s head
is seen through the tinted rear window
and he hears music from her open window.
Her eyes reflect in the rear view mirror.

The Toyota turns right at the next intersection;
Ed goes straight, ten miles over the limit,
another relationship entering default.
At home he could work on a 6-pack
or just pull the covers up to his chin.
Balling up the note, he throws it out the window,
channeling the radio to an all-talk sports show.
There’s always another stoplight.

—Gene McCormick, Wayne, IL