Mudlark Poster No. 28 (2000)

Jack Martin

Grant Proposal | Elvis Impersonator | Countdown

Jack Martin's poems have appeared in AGNI, CRAZYHORSE, PLOUGHSHARES, QUARTERLY WEST,, and other journals. His chapbook is WEEKEND SENTENCES (Pudding House). He lives in Colorado.

Grant Proposal

Some things are more important than self
is as important
as carrots
for example
look hunger up
in a mini-skirt
try to live off
for doing things right
at a job
you can't really get fired from
or paid for
all the same person
look around
and if after a year
you're still not convinced
send me a dollar
I'll write to you
I'll look for you
in a storm
of inadequate clothing
away from home
by yourself
at night
drunk and walking
like you
toward you
I don't know how long
she'll let me
sleep here
three four oh east stuart
fort collins colorado eight oh five two five

Elvis Impersonator

The lip curl hangs in the space between danger and fear.
                                 —Fran Szolcecky

The neighbor's dog barks
and barks.
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable beauty is.
Bark. As beauty does, I find a black widow in a thick crack
by the back porch. It crabs or trucks. It is fast as a bark.
I don't know how to describe it in a word. I want to,
but the best I can do is this:
It is as terrifying as fashion. The hourglass
on its belly is red as rapture, or the Rapture. I feel under appreciated.
Quick as night the fat spider skitters down a runway in spiked heels.
Tight wires are everywhere. An audience is clapping.
I sing Hunka Hunka and You Ain't Nothin But a
deep in my starched pajamas until I almost forget,
but the spider is a trusting heart beating its eight count
on gauze and darkness until I confess my fear with a screwdriver blade
and pin her abdomen to the concrete and spread it like butter.
Bark. I kill her again and again like my youth,
a time when there was something to say and the real king lived,
walked through city after city handing out fifty dollar bills and Cadillacs
and I wore clothes loose like bags, and if you were a woman,
I wanted to kiss you, to peer at your nakedness
with the same eyes that would watch this black spider, to peer in the same way
I would as I stand now at the back door of my house almost panicked
because my two-year-old son in the backyard is out of reach so often
in this world full of danger, even as I sing his mother's name
and I sing his name, and they both come to me as I stand on the precipice
of the porch wiping the blade of a screwdriver
and feeling like wind must feel when all of the jackets are buttoned,
or like the rest of the Presleys must feel
when they see black shoe polish in hair
or when they stand before a medicine cabinet

or just the opposite, but not relief, not ever


A homeless man
abandons his smoldering camp,
the orange coals blinking.
Roll it around
on your tongue. I can't write
fast enough, and when
is there time to read? Yesterday,
before the world ignited,
at the car wash, the driver
in the car in front of me
used a bath towel to try to keep water
out of his car. What else could he do?
He had already driven
into a car wash in a car
without a window. My cat sleeps
flat on his back,
legs spread. Butterflies taste
with their feet. For a moment,
the angle of the sun at the wedding
burned her dress off and burned it right
back on. There's nutmeg in Alfredo sauce.
I'm cooking.
While you may not think this is the time
to be talking about life insurance,
you couldn't be more wrong.
In 1892, a swarm of monarch butterflies
inundated Cleveland.
Today, forty-foot flames
force my friends out of their home
in the canyon. Trees on fire can explode
and catapult flaming logs through the air.
Burning embers can ride wind for miles.
The sheriff's eyes are wild horses.
He says, I'm only going to tell you once.
There's ice on the moon.

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