Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and author of two books of stories, Toba and At the Hands of a Thief (Atheneum). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Cimarron Review, Cutthroat Journal, Harpur Palate, Paterson Literary Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Prelude Magazine, Rattle, Spillway, The Sun, Tahoma Literary Review, Sugar House Review. His poetry has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and the Best of the Net. michaeljmark.com
The Importance Of A Good Shtup
He comes home and his wife asks,
“How was work?” and he says, “Good”
and washes up. It’s out of his control,
whether or not he works hard. His boss
is sleeping with the company’s biggest
customer. Which means his whole paycheck
depends on the quality of their sex.
He can’t stop himself from wondering
if the 72 year old boss is doing the job.
He becomes a victim to his own fantasies—
half opening her bedroom door to check
on their progress. “She greets me in pink
pajamas,” his boss tells him, putting a picture
in his head, like the one on his desk he looks
at some days all day.
You Got To Look Good For The Dying
Tuesdays and Thursdays I shave
For Will and Herman and now Bill
Before I knock
I tuck in my buttoned shirt
Pinks, baby blues and yellows
We need the lightness
It was my father who dressed me
In my Bar Mitzvah suit
I was scared for what was about to happen
Alone at the Torah
I made the sounds I was taught
Never knowing what I am saying
Or to whom
Q-tips to the ears
Brush to the teeth
Tweezers to the hairs from my nose
And now ears – What has become
In the mirror are Will and Herman and Bill,
My father and me
Dementia and Pancreatic Cancer, and Colon Cancer
All of us fading
Those Stop Lights Will Get You Worse Than The Slots
And The Slots Will Kill You Worse Than The Sun
The All Nude Revue stripper calls the street corner
whore a skank. The whore shouts back Tell me that
when you’re out here
next December bitch. Isn’t that right?
How we step on the other just to get home and there’s
never anything on TV or in the fridge worth the bother.
The stoplights are so long here they make drivers crazy –
run reds even when cops are waiting in plain sight.
But they’re good for hookers.
Like that $1.99 candy bar gets harder to resist
every second you’re stuck on that slow checker’s line
at the Wawa. He’s nice but he talks,
and when he talks— the weather, his paper cuts, too few breaks—
his fingers don’t go. It’s the way of the whole world right
on this block – a mile off
the boardwalk where you can smell the ocean,
see the casinos flashing their come-on
but the year you moved you got melanoma twice
and the tables emptied you so bad you can’t remember
how you could think this was your escape.