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Book Excerpt: My Next Bad Decision by Nathan Graziano


Corrina. She holds the cocktail tray,
a brown torch, above her head,
never spilling a drop of drink
as she glides through the bar.
I learned her name from a receipt
a customer had left on a table.
Corrina. I say it to feel the syllables
roll off my tongue, a soft wave.
I let the undertow of inhalation
pull the vowels back inside
my mouth, and I say it again.
Corrina. I smile when she walks by,
leaving a faint scent of French fries.
I say her name to myself. Corrina.
Drowned by the jukebox.

The Inevitable Surprise

“Good God, he has a baseball bat between his legs,” my wife says
and covers her mouth, trying to blot the grin that slipped on her lips
as the pizza boy flipped the lid of a pepperoni pie and presented a
wide-eyed bombshell with what Edgar Allan Poe called “the inevitable
surprise.” I say, “No, no,” the air siphoned from my Friday night, “the
camera adds six inches.” But my wife knows. And I know. And anyone
who has watched Pizza Bone 6 and seen the look of sheer fear in the
bombshell’s eyes when that lid was flipped—yes, you know, too. So I
turn to my wife and suggest some popcorn and a new movie, one
where the hero dies at the end.

In Anticipation of My Next Bad Decision

Saturday afternoon sits like a bully on my head.
I crack another beer and watch college football,
those impossibly beautiful cheerleaders smiling

on the sidelines in those impossibly short skirts.
They’re launched like bright thoughts in the sky
with sturdy young men ready to catch them

then they’ll all crowd around the camera and wag
their index fingers—they’re all Number One—
with Saturday night and nice lives ahead of them.

My therapist says I have a drinking problem
and calls it a form of insanity. He compares it
to a helium balloon I expect to stay grounded

without a string tying it to anything solid. He says
I should try to get some exercise in the winter
when I tend to be depressed, so tonight

I’m going to shadow box in the garage
by the light of a lamp my wife and I never used.
We bought it at a yard sale when we were broke

and eating pancakes for all three meals.
But I always had money for drinks, and I think
my therapist may have a point. It’s something

I knew when I was in college and trying to plan
my next step up the stairs, but I’d stumble back down,
hitting the ground, with nobody there to catch me.

The Athleticism of Gluttony

An Asian kid built like a cigarette
mows down hot dog after hot dog—
three bites, a machine-like rhythm.

His body metabolizes those pig’s asses
and the white bread buns at a bionic pace
like a broken man through a shredder.

At what point, I wonder, did this kid
first hear his calling, a ghost’s voice
whispering to him from a hot dog cart?

“Three bites,” it called, and the boy obliged.
The camera pans on his proud parents,
sitting beside a sleeveless man in a mesh hat.

The husband reminds his wife, by touching
her hand, of the night they conceived him,
moonlight swallowing the stars without trying.

Men with Mustaches

A man with a mustache must be watched closely,
like a storm cloud concealing lighting in its coat.

A man with a mustache might be a porn star,
a scrawny guy with three legs, sweating pools of fuck.

A man with a mustache might sell you a used car
and promise it will change the way you drive. It will.

A man with a mustache might wear his shirt unbuttoned,
his chest hair screaming like a room full of pop-fans.

A man with a mustache might sell tickets
for The Ferris Wheel, piss behind the dunking booth.

A man with a mustache might try to write like Hemingway
but only succeed in drinking himself to sleep.

A man with a mustache might, in fact, be me
before I shaved it off after scaring myself in the mirror.

A man with a mustache must be watched closely:
I guarantee he’s looking at you, chewing on a toothpick.

My Next Bad Decision is available through Artistically Declined Press or


Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is the author of three collections of poetry—Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2003), Teaching Metaphors (Sunnyoutside Press, 2007) and After the Honeymoon (Sunnyoutside Press, 2009)—a collection of short stories, Frostbite (GBP, 2002), a novella titled Some Sort of Ugly (Marginalia Publishing, 2013) as well as several chapbooks of fiction and poetry. A book of poetry titled My Next Bad Decision, and a novel, When We Were Locusts, were published in the Fall of 2014. For more information, visit his website at