OUTSIDE THE LOBSTER TRAP BAR
in Johnstown, Pennsylvania,
a man takes a hard right to the face,
falls, and gets kicked in the gut.
From the gravel lot, he looks up at his
tormentor and, with a bloody mouth,
says, "I'm a man, and you know it!"
BEER AS RELIGION
-for Lou Ickes
There was god and then there was beer.
Say what you will about my religious
leanings but I believe that. A monk once said,
"Beauty lies in the hands of the beer holder."
You can have beauty without beer, but can you
have beer without beauty? Maybe, but I won't sit
with you at the bar. My friend Lou bartends over
in Lawernceville at the Brillo Box. I think he's
getting rich. All those one dollar bills stuffed
in a giant fishbowl, saying, "Thank you."
I like drunks. They always look so religious.
I like Lou when he's drunk, when he wears a halo.
He pours stiff drinks to those of us in need.
I hope you're happy believing whatever it is you believe.
If you can afford it, please, buy the next round.
Mark wants to get drunk
so he goes to Al's Tavern.
and after that, savings.
He likes the time off,
but he still wishes for his old job.
In 1983, he made sixteen
an hour as a machinist.
That was good money,
but there were Japanese cars.
The cars were red and blue
and their doors closed nicely
and they got 30 mpg around town
and Mark tried not to hate Japan,
the Japanese people,
which was easier than he imagined.
The bar is packed.
Two people wear Burger King uniforms.
After the mill shut down,
Mark worked at McDonalds for three days
then got fired because he wouldn't mop
up the puke in the bathroom.
He went to school for a year,
then quit to paint houses.
During the summer, the hair on his legs
gets knotted with drips of paint.
It's winter now. When a woman
asks to buy him a drink, he says, "Sure."
No one has bought him a drink in five years.
"I'm Elizabeth," she says.
She wants to shoot pool so they do.
She buys the next round, and the next.
Mark says, "Seriously, let me."
She refuses. It's her boyfriend's credit card.
Ex-boyfriend. She doesn't mention him
at all one way or the other. She hates him.
She's wearing her denim skirt, short,
the sexiest thing she owns,
which sort of makes her sad.
In high school, she did slutty.
In college, she did not.
Now, showing a little cleavage feels bold.
Mark says, "Do you always
drink like this?"
She says, "Yes.
If he wants to fuck
he has to make the move.
Otherwise, she goes home.
Her boyfriend, ex, is somewhere
on business. She thinks he's gay.
Not in a mean way, but in a factual way.
She knows she can't change him
but she'd like to. She'd like to
change all the gay men, to have that power.
Mark says, "I used to work at McDonalds."
He doesn't know why. He's drunk.
"Me, too," she says.
"I had pimples for three years."
Elizabeth gets him to bum a cigarette
from another guy. She likes his ass
and his back, his neck,
the way it's shaved clean and neat.
She likes neat men. Not gay men.
There is a difference.
"Take me home?" she says and smiles.
He goes for his jean jacket.
She wanted him to ask,
but so what. He's hard in her hand.
The bedroom light is dim.
She has to pee, but it can wait.
Then it can't.
"One second," she says.
It takes more than a second.
When she comes back, he can't get hard.
She blows him for a minute
and it's like sucking a gummy worm.
He takes her head and says,
"Maybe we could sleep for a little bit."
She says, "I have to be up for work."
He says, "On Saturday?" He says, "Oh."
She doesn't have to be at work.
She needs to be alone and cry.
She knows it's not her,
that if she didn't have to pee
he would have stayed hard,
and she could have climbed on him
or he could have climbed on her,
and there would have been something there
after so many months of being empty.
About the author:
Dave Newman has published poems and stories in journals and magazines around the world. He teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. His most recent chapbook, Allen Ginsberg Comes To Pittsburgh, is forthcoming from Platonic 3Way Press (www.platonic3waypress.com).
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