End Times, Wisconsin

Other than that he was shouting the cords
of Sheol entangle me in snares of death
the guy seemed ordinary—chunky, short-
haired Wisconsin white guy you’d see
in Packer gear on Sunday even
in Packer gear on Sunday at church.
But this day he was wearing his Fear God
tee-shirt and seriously bellowing
apocalyptic visions.  I wondered
if he’d done something bad and had to
shout Bible verses as punishment
but no one makes anyone shout Bible
verses as punishment, do they?  Probably
the guy really believed all us downtown
drunks, punks, bakers, bankers and
overall whack-job loiterers are hell-bound.
His wife hunkered behind a giant
to-go coffee and their little girl
in a stroller sucked a red stick of candy.
When I crossed the street to avoid the evangelist
I noticed the sound of his voice bouncing
off the Weigent building—rent controlled
apartments above Intimate Treasures Salon, which
stocks a large inventory of fuzzy
handcuffs, blow-up dolls, DVDs and Spanish fly,
plus a pretty wide variety  
of dildos, butt-plugs, and vibrators.
Last time I was in there, my friend
was saying how sad he was about Amy
Winehouse dying and then Amy Winehouse
began singing from his phone which was in
my pocket—he’s in the place but I can’t
get joy, which I think in that song means
she’s having sex with someone but
can’t quite orgasm.  In a sex-shop context  
that seemed like timely advice
from beyond the grave.  As if
that weren’t enough to inspire
a secular humanist to glance at the sky,
a second later my friend saw someone familiar-looking:
this tall, crooked-walking woman he believed
he’d sketched years earlier while studying
drawing in Poland.  We pointed and whispered
while she mulled plastic dongs and finally
he just said “hey, didn’t I sketch you
in Poland?” and sure enough she said yes
oh my god oh my god oh my god.
Right there in front of all those dildos they
rekindled a flame, and now I never see him. 
So it was with some heaviness of heart
that I snuck past the zealot, salon,
bus station and Hooters,
hearing those distant warnings echo
and imagining scary gods.  Depressing
as it’s been these last few years
part of me wouldn’t mind if a giant
feathered serpent came slithering
around the corner by U.P.S., flapping
its wings and flashing its fangs.
I’d run like hell and I bet that
Bible guy would too while his wife would try
to push that stroller and balance
that giant coffee, which would prove
too challenging and the coffee would dump
on the girl who would be screaming
not because the coffee was hot
but because she dropped
that red stick of candy, which,
even at that crucial moment
—the beginning of the end times!—
was the main thing she really wanted.

—William Stobb, La Crosse, WI