The pie, my god Anthony, the cherry pie!
And pumpkin with the heavy cream a crown
sliming on top, and chicken wings and fries
and all the roadside pleasures you desire.
It’s been a nice car ride with you, curly friend,
up 86 and 20 and the snaky routes of WNY
until at last we reached this diner here
among the browns of late autumn in Chaffee
near the old Dodge-Chrysler lot where my father
rode away in dozens of red cars. Jim Shaw,
a good man, resting now, his shop kitty corner
to Earl’s fine corner booths and Coke floats
and did I mention the bounty of fresh-baked pies?
Good Lord! The flavor hangs unlike the slick silk
ties of businessmen but like a big belly
over the belt, the town worker awaiting
his pension by eating. God rest ye merry
gentlemen, dear Earl and Jim and all Jims and Earls
in the ground and on surgery lists
and counting down the days until retirement.
Your plaid tablecloths are my bible.

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It’s like drifting to sleep on a wood bench
in the quad, candy April sunsets

offering their sugar. Or a quick rain
of sparrow tweeps overhead as you lie there,

dreaming outside the roof window.
Like the orange shadow of a campus lamplight

sweeping in closer, swallowing the oaks
and thick grass, devouring the evening.

It’s all of this when you get it right
and worse than blind deafness when you whiff.

Ordering Yunnan black at the counter there,
and here we are: me with shave cuts and you

red as October in an apron. Hellos
polite as always, but spinach in my teeth,

so I ask for toothpick. A toothpick
from a goddamn barista? I was reaching,

you see, but presentations loom and weather comments
grow stale after weeks like discarded grinds.

The jangle overhead plays us out, mercifully.
You turn, I stomp away. The door dings. Out.

After Lower Dens’ “To Die In L.A.”

The subject: a half-cringe yowl across a synth
frontier, pipping like the last summer
you truly felt your youth, the end of teenage
excess. Into the windstorm of higher degrees
and endless date-table romance.

The delivery method: streaming, not water,
high electrical, mesh screens, cold plastic,
still blooming as spring unfolds outside
while my legs cross atop the comforter
in the grad school attic.

The end result: a lust for sleepy guitar
tones and soaked promise of college radio
in the first four black president years,
then give me sweat and foolish long hair
and call it a life.

A tumbled spill of noodles and meat orbs
lies before me just off the sidewalk
as I step to class. Next to it, french fries
bleeding ketchup and a hunk of bread
aloof like a shy boy at a rock concert.
Why such a combination at 11 am?
We are all spaghetti messes really, inside
or out, so spotting two unrelated meals
in a food-puddle on the dead grass
is really just par for the course, like it or not.

What more can I say about Renouf Drive
to you, oh parked car on the avenue?
You hear my stories of galloping down the sidewalk
with liquor bottles and White Owl tubes
at the ready, light beer cans shook up,
blurred text messages and declare a nostalgia hour
in your silence. When you whirr on the highway
you say less. Your shiny black exterior
reveals my teenage past in all its grandeur:
hawking crop-tops on the steps, retreating
emotionally to polish my veneer,
the cuss words on the bus, the matchbook
desperation. The end came too soon.
You can’t be 20 on Renouf Mountain.

What’s punk may stay
To linger free
Inside a backpack
On the subway
On the street

And at the club
Where we can’t drink
We see the marshals
Of the sound
Of the sink

They bob and burst
Like kid balloons
In the basement
At the diner
Greasy Spoons

You have known punk
You have known meaning
This is the way
We carry on
Eternally machining

When I am wild like the USA
and brains dip from my ears like melting ice cream
you will see the power of a heavy hum
from the stagefront as the singer looks left, right
then back to drumset pentagram stencil center.
The evening will bring music and a feast
of earache and the entrails of the crowd
will slop under Converse soles and the stench
of rotten victory will fill the halls.
In schools the teachers will teach a tomorrow
without holy wars or blood-oil and instead
zoom in on a collective fan response,
a close encounter of the thirdest kind,
and steal new knowledge like lunch money. Or not.

Our hero misses cheeseburgers and Camels.
The return voyage’s weeks longer than advertised,
but he knew that. Somewhere, in a deep crevice
inside his bloated suit, still beats a heart
that longs for petty human quarrels like traffic
and knocking a drink accidentally
and keeping sloppy marital finances,
the lot of which you can’t find among the stars.
As the board blinks and receivers echo
in his ear, he’s back in Alabama
consuming the black vastness of a night
where multitudes of stars blink fast and bright.
The girl, the sunburn, the flattened black hair
all swirl skyward now as his vessel, tumbling,
arranges itself in no particular manner,
the memory the heaviest item in
the antigravity orb. Spaceman, as a spaceboy,
crushed lips with blackhair behind the central hub
where mustaches slept, then knew he’d never breathe
her air again. So spaceboy left a message,
a hefty, breathy whisper — we won’t be long.
Indeed his craft descends. Two weeks to go.
Who really ever gets what he may want?

A thunderclap slugs sky like a knuckle duster
across a lackey’s pale stout face: the sound
quakes big, and the tones are grouped in clusters

inside the piano practice rooms. Rain blusters
as college boys dump their forearms (young and round)
upon the keys and drummers, pounding, muster

their own conviction to stir a storm. Thrusters
now thrown, bass burbling and hopping, bound
wood and strings and plastic all astir —

the swirling symphony howls loud when the luster
of rain cracks open the ceiling. All drown.
Silence: and the tones are grouped in clusters.