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Grandfather Dollar Rides the American Express Down Past Collection Street to the Poor House by Brian Le Lay

The vast but repetitive broken-record of human history being ransom-notes disguised as newspaper pages, black-ink blood dripping creases down a two-way mirror like dried mascara streams on a weeping woman’s face after she’s gone to sleep with her make-up on, circumstantial arrangements of numbers evidence a reactionary Midwestern bias against French onion soup and fried potatoes, Beckett and Bohemia–free-verse poetry a fiery nihilistic whim for “the faggots” in San Francisco

Allen Ginsberg a flagship for the decadent
Pleasure of men holding hands
In the backs of taxicabs,

“But the human race’ll end!
When did good Catholic boys
Stop penning iambic pentameter
On the subject of self-loathing,
And the change of seasons?”

And we’re typecast color-coded into pie-charts with the crusts cut off by the future drunk uncles of America who spout what’s “true and blue” from the cascading steps of the Lincoln Memorial

And aren’t you proud
That decades have seen
The innovation of the bullet

From a pinhole puncture
To a fragmenting swell?


I think of my grandfather a young man cross-lacing his ice-skates beside a plexiglass lake, when from Middletown New York he resembled an early Mickey Mantle could have done anything but was destined to don a pair of earmuffs to protect his eardrums from bursting beneath an anvil of industrial clamor, a common laborer’s blowtorch goggles pulled over his eyes so as not to scorch the retinae with the ricochet of a fine blue flame

And in not so many summers each year would be defined by tax season anniversaries of births marriages and deaths instead of mowing lawns for malt milkshake money or a new baseball mitt this one’s come unlaced, his best aluminum bat would be laid away like a railroad tie across a freightline never again to be seen as a thing of individual importance

And he’d work in a cinder-gray warehouse that manufactured millions of aluminum cans, where he’d watch fellow family men get their arms torn off like apricots from a branch and masticated by the cumbersome teeth of cutting-edge machines, punch out and navigate the rat’s maze of 1970s New Jersey highways emitting a fish-tail of sweat and blue exhaust

When the tiered seats of Yankee Stadium were hailed holy as the pews of 9th Street Presbyterian widowed grandfathers their lives having been nothing but war reports and “the Martians are coming” requested to be buried inside the casing of their upright radios

Life was not worth living unless there was a wedding to attend

Men wore steam-pressed leisure suits with pant legs creased and still smiled the squinty-eyed sunglare smile of 1959 muscle cars and doowop girls–

Long as we make ourselves seem content, ever-enduring and charm-school postured in photographs like our grandparents leaning against an avocado stationwagon, rosy-cheeked teachers with mechanical jaws’ll say our parents must be good Americans and we’ll be remembered the way they always wished we had been


I’m a man who does what he’s told, pass muster, cut the mustard, make the grade, TV telepathy mundane monogamy morning joe and a nightcap to nourish my bones for tomorrow chasing the conductor’s hypnotic clock and stopwatch-chain draped like a theater curtain from his peacoat breast pocket precisely at dawn

The only men who have multiple partners are those monstrous failures who can’t quell their native sexual hunger to an aggressive convulsing silence only broken by the sound of a socket wrench crashing to the oil-stained cement floor, limb-to-limb exhaustion lulled to bed by the sunken armchair’s quiet non-contemplation


Contemporary somebodies have tried direly to recreate honeymoon America hung in an espresso-finished frame but those old Moxie Soda fountains, chrome dining cars and drive-thrus which strictly forbade “necking” have been demolished into nostalgic glassy heaps of jagged rubble where children’s mothers told them not to play and the shit-eating Eddie Haskells of yore dared the trembling neighbor-angel disobey his mother’s holy orders

And according to those televangelists who would’ve been Salem’s impassioned play-by-play, America’s halo has been rashed with infectious rust since schoolteachers stopped mandating prayer, demerits for ruffled collars, and a slap on the wrist with thirty plastic centimeters

There are stripmalls crowning the leveled Massachusetts hilltops where Lucilles with listerine-green curlers in their cotton hair slipped out through a doggy door, a post-curfew windowpane

And lost their virginal glow
In a parting of tall grass,
Not knowing
What they had coveted
To begin with


In the olden days a gut feeling was heeded
Factual evidence of a crime not yet committed
In cases where the would-be culprit
Simply seemed suspicious. The anemic boy
Shuffling the neighborhood with wiry limbs,
Hollow cheeks underfed and sunken
Calculating cobalt eyes was the Devil Incarnate,

Who we now know is the person
Who could bury you alive
In the algorithmic rumble
Of an academic decathlon,

In hindsight that whole generation
Looked like morticians’ sons,
Crazy-glue-plastered hair

And dancing like a stick-bug
At the sock-hop
To forget father death

Brian Le Lay‘s first full-length book of poems, Don’t Bury Me in New Jersey, is available from Electric Windmill Books. His second book, Smile for the Customers, is forthcoming from Brass Seahorse Books. Recent poems have appeared in Hobo Pancakes, The Rusty Nail, and Gutter Eloquence. He blogs at

© 2012 Brian Le Lay