The Disappointed Telecaster

I bought a brown-and-white Telecaster in 1993 while digging
Lindsey Buckingham arpeggios
Keith Richards rock harpsichord
Joe Strummer musical chainsaw
Andy Summers stabby string reggae-rake echo flutter
Albert Collins bent-over blues
Steve the Colonel white soul twelve bar backup
Mark Knopfler twangy clean walking country Brit boogie

Eventually the strings started
pushing back and my rent was late

Doused in envy
with a streak of sulfur
burning brightly
in brown and white
but not as bright
as I thought it would
cash in hand,
on the pawn shop counter


Benny Lundgren could not believe it was 2019 already. “Ten years of marriage,” he thought while changing the oil in his wife Joanie’s new Mercedes, “and I still get horny whenever I see her. Hell, whenever I even think of her. The anti-marriage guys just don’t know what they’re missing.”

Just thinking about the look on her face when he had surprised her on Mother’s Day with the car made him smile.

“What is THAT?” she had asked, looking past the Mercedes at the beat-up Corolla in the garage.

“I had to trade in my truck,” he had told her, ” and that is all I could afford. I had to roll the truck balance into the loan for the Mercedes.”

He could feel himself growing hard imagining the rush of love she must have been feeling about his sacrifices for her.

“Aww, aren’t you sweet?” she had said as she gave him a light peck on the forehead. “But keep it in the garage. Don’t ever park it on the street or in the driveway.”

“Of course,” he had said, then encircled her waist with his arm as he pressed his growing hard-on into her ass. He loved it when she wore her lululemons. “If you follow me upstairs, I have another present for you.”

She pressed the lock on the key fob and slipped free of his arm. “Oh, not now. I’m going to be late for Pure Barre.”

“Oh,” he had said.

“Now don’t be sad, sweet boy,” she lightly scolded. “Don’t you want mommy to show off her new present to all the girls at yoga class? Show them what a wonderful husband she has? Let’s turn that frown upside down.” She had laid her hand on his cheek for emphasis.

He grinned a little. “Yeah I am pretty awesome.”

“I’ll say,” she had said as she turned and skipped into the house.

He remembered it like it was yesterday because that night they fought about sex.

“It just seems like you would want to, you know, be intimate with your husband, especially after all the trouble I’ve gone through to buy you your dream car.

Upon hearing this her anger matured from hate to rage. “Oh so I’m just supposed to fuck you because you spent some money on me? Is that how this works? I’m just some kind of domesticated whore?”

“Well, no, I–”

“Sure sounds that way to me,” Joanie said as the she ripped her bathrobe open to reveal her naked body and lay back on the bed, spreading her legs. “Have at it, big boy. Come fuck me like the whore I am.”

He just stood there with a rock-hard erection. “I…come on, don’t talk like that,” he said. “That’s not it. Not what I meant at all. I–” But he had not seen her naked in three months and it was more than he could stand. He pushed his sweatpants down and stepped toward the bed.

“OH MY GOD!” she screamed. “This is really what you want? What kind of sick fucking rapist are you, anyway?”

“What, no, I’m not. What?” he stammered.

Joanie jumped up and pulled her robe shut. “Asshole!” she yelled, then ran into the bathroom and slammed the door. When he heard the lock click, he went downstairs to make a sandwich which he wrapped in a paper towel and took to his man cave, the small storage closet off the garage that had just enough space for a small recliner, a dorm room refrigerator that pulled double-duty as a side table for the chair, and a small television set. He sat in the chair and opened the fridge. “At least I have plenty of beer,” he thought.


When Joanie shook him the next morning, he awoke with a headache and a hard-on. The smell of her perfume and her soft hand on the back of his head only made him harder. He looked around. He was still in his chair in the closet.

“I guess you’re not going to make it to church. Again,” she said.

“Sorry, yeah, no,” he said. “Not feeling it today.”

Joanie said nothing and walked out. He listened to her heels clicking on the smooth concrete floor and didn’t get up until she was backing down the driveway.

He went inside and saw that she’d turned the coffee maker off even though the pot was still half-full. He poured a cup of lukewarm coffee and heated it in the microwave, then put some Pop Tarts in the toaster. While the Pop Tarts were toasting he fed the dog and walked outside to get the paper down at the end of the driveway. On his way back up to the house he looked up and down the street, wondering what it would be like to live three houses down, at 1434 where Jackson’s wife was plump but seemed happy driving a minivan and sometimes cut the grass. Or 1401 on the other side, at the end of the street, where Liebler’s wife was older than him and wore long skirts and long-sleeved, high-necked blouses that were a little too tight and was always waiting on the porch for him and seemed happy to see him when he got home from work.

Back in the kitchen, he saw that his Pop Tarts had popped. He wrapped them in a paper towel and grabbed his coffee and walked back out to his man cave. He felt better out there than in the living room. He would probably drop some Pop Tart crumbs on the couch or inadvertently leave a ring on the coffee table and didn’t want to upset her.

He settled into his recliner and switched the television on to The Joan Lundgren Hour of Ministry. She wore a tight-fitting white business shirt and navy slacks that were thin and stretchy just like her yoga pants. He grew hard, and harder, watching her prance on stage, her heels adding prominence to her ass. His heart sank at the shame washing over him as he imagined fucking her doggystyle in the elevated baptismal tub while congregation packed in the pews gasped but watched anyway.

“Do you really want to burn in Hell?” his wife asked as she walked back and forth across the thick maroon carpet like a panther prowling in front of a cave that contained her next meal. “For eternity?” she continued. “E-Ter-Ni-Ty? Cause that’s a mighty long time.”

The congregation laughed. Benny sat entranced, ignoring the crumbs on his shirt, the erection straining at his sweatpants.

“I can feel many of you watching out there, can feel your pain and your sin and the self-imposed hell you’re in right now! You’re in prison! Prisons of lust! Prisons of greed! Prisons of selfishness. Self-centeredness! But you don’t have to remain a pathetic wretch! If you’ve been helped by our ministry and want to demonstrate your support with a financial contribution, or if you just need someone to talk to, our phone lines are open…”

Benny picked up his phone and dialed.







Layering sonic
in a Detroit loaner
wind, whine, tunes
full moon.

She hates convertibles.
Something about hair.
Something about tears.

She thinks only
of the neon house
of legal love and holy matrimony,
how the picture will look.
Will The King or some alien
welcome us in?

Will we dress as pirates?


There’s a reason we never colonized the solar system
and probably never will.

That reason is pussy.

Genocidal aliens got nothing on
fucking the right people at the wrong time.

Who locks up the murderer when he’s
the only doctor on the moon?

Who murders the pilot when he’s the only one
who can get you back to the shuttle?

But who wouldn’t?

Did NASA even have to war game this?

Who would they hire as Space Pimp?


The night we met–it’s all too clear now–
I couldn’t stand the tone she used
while dragging working-class pizza.

As if everyone can afford sun-dried tomatoes.

I had to look up “pesto” in the dictionary.


How much farther? she asks.
Do I tell her now or later?
There’s still a lot of road and
just two weeks from here to retrograde.


A white gob on my truck’s glossy black hood. Bird shit. Crow shit. Hear him cawing at me from the tall pine trees behind my driveway—

While turkey hunting I’ve blown a crow call hoping for shock gobbles, hoping to force some big old tom into giving himself away. Rarely happens. Old turkeys and old bucks didn’t get that way by being conspicuous. That’s what the young are for.

Crow. Peckerwood. Owl. Coyote. Another turkey’s gobble. These are locator calls and they sometimes work.

Except with crows. Blow a crow call, it’s usually just crows that answer. Wild turkeys don’t read hunting magazines—

I hose off my hood, wipe the white shit away with a shop towel then go for my .22, the old Ruger I’ve had since I was twelve, knowing the crow will be quiet when I return.

He’ll see me but I won’t see him.


Thirteen Ways of Looking at Your Job Through Your Employer’s Video Surveillance Equipment

(with apologies to Wallace Stevens)

Among twenty gray cubicles
The only moving thing
Was the ceiling-mounted camera.

I saw three cameras
But more importantly
They saw me.

A camera whirred high up in the corner of the ceiling.
It was not conspicuous.

A male co-worker and a female co-worker
Become one.
A male co-worker and a female co-worker and a video camera
Become one big HR problem.

I can’t decide what’s better,
The beauty of the double-entendre
Or the beauty of my intern’s fun bags,
The video camera’s rusty hinge squeaking
Or knowing it’s going to squeak.

A small bird flew into the round window
And left a bloody smear.
The shadow of the video camera
Swept the window, back and forth.
The mood
Of the office:
The exhaustion of doom.

O husky Harpies of HR,
How do you imagine your golden years?
Do you not see how the video camera
Whirls above the heads
Of the men who ignore you?

I hear lofty pronouncements
Of interpersonal cautions at regular intervals;
But I also hear
The ceiling-mounted camera
Turning towards me.

When the southwest camera was removed for repair,
It marked anonymity
In one office quadrant.

At the sight of surveillance cameras
Covering all public spaces,
Even the prophets of misandry
Would spontanesouly combust.

He banged a chick in Connecticut
In the back of his Trans-Am.
At one point, he worried
That he mistook her large clitoris
For a penis,
And the shadow of flying blackbirds
For video cameras catching it all.

The people are working.
The video cameras must be working.

It was a long day
The longest,
All day long
And no one was leaving early.
The video cameras hung
From every corner.

Manifold Density

The old limits are gone. Even the spectrum is magic the first time. Then it’s science and all sinks in. You can reinvent the wheel, but light is light.

You can tell a better story, but history happened. It passes through. Lingers. Manifests.

Window. Lens. Prism.

But what of the pier glass?

Put the top down and hang a right. Catch your destiny in the windshield or the rear view. Drive until you see cactus. Then keep driving.


Suicide Knob

The Oldsmobile’s been tarped a while. Never did paint it.

Sometimes I flip that tarp and get in her, one leg out the door and my foot on the dirt, racing my after-dinner beers to that jumpy line between one more and too many while she puts the baby down.

The baby. My little girl. The baby smell of her puts a shiver down my spine. She’s like the beginning or the end of the world. I know I would do anything for her or for the sake of her but when she cries or even looks at me I’m like a screen door slapping on a rusty hinge and I’m already crushed by all the ways she will hurt.

I lift the can and drink while it’s still almost cool. Moonlight paints the hood and shines on the suicide knob, that flaking chrome skull with the Dirty Harry grin, flecks of dried teenage blood still in one eye socket from the year I got rear-ended and broke a tooth one night after I dropped her off on my way to see a different girl. One of a thousand things I never told her.

She shows up in dollar store flip-flops wearing my undershirt like a dress and pinching the baby monitor by the antenna like she might take off any second and just drop it in the dirt. She sits on my outside leg, that shirt high up her thighs and puts her head on my shoulder, drops the monitor on the seat, squirms on my leg—some kind of shortcut way of saying the night is young. It gets me hard but we’re tired so we just sit there hearing crickets and frogs and those small breaths on that baby speaker all together like a roomful of ticking clocks.

“Dishwasher’s broke I think,” she says in that staring across the lake voice but instead of really listening I’m telling myself to swallow the last of this not cold beer and bounce her on my dick real good, and then to paint this old vehicle someday before I have to take my little girl down some aisle somewhere, but I don’t move and she don’t move and it’s only a beer can rubbing between my legs.

I told her once I thought love and time only meet to kill the other off, or some shit like that, but we were kids then and this ain’t bad. She cooks good and never tells me no.

A Mexican standoff with tits and ass

At twelve years old I saw my first tit in the flesh. It belonged to the the thirteen year old babysitter of a friend’s infant sister. It was 1979 and she came in hot with a full bush she showed us, too. Of course we pulled our pants down. We were Southern gentlemen in progress.

Facing each other, frozen, unclear protocols and how to get there from here.

Then she quickly fixed her top, pulled up her jeans and left the room. The baby was crying. I covered back up quickly, too, and ran home.

We all had bikes then but didn’t ride them. We walked everywhere but with energy to burn we ran while we could. Ran everywhere. Walked only when we tired from running.


American Romance

We threw darts until our shoulders hurt, drank until our livers lagged behind one long night of vomit and piss. I didn’t hold your hair. You didn’t call me “Sugar.”

I might have got you pregnant but I didn’t get you off. It was awkward. We reconnected over breakfast.

I barely noticed your lazy eye, didn’t even mind that you were almost blonde.


Best Customer

That stupid toy Prius with the food delivery sign on the roof done circled the block twice and is now on its third lap. I can see it on my front door surveillance cams, eight neat squares with different views on my laptop screen. I could go out there and flag down the bastard but I refuse to. I’m paying for this. How hard is it to fetch Kung Pao to an address that’s been around as long as I have? My house was here thirty years before I bought it. Hell, my ex’s fuckboy’s truck still shows up in my driveway on Google Maps from three years ago. Every time someone uses street view they ask me about my red truck. My failed marriage is right there on Google if you know what you’re looking at. Google keeping one of how many adulterous fuck sessions at my house frozen in time for public consumption. I went to a counselor for one visit and asked him how you get over something like that. He said who the fuck knows. Use a different map. I never went back because that’s the same thing my brother and my cousin said, but that’s the problem living in a hidden corner of the South and that Google car is a long time coming back. That’s why I busted them. I was on the internet to see if Google had a street view of my house yet and there’s this red truck in my driveway. Dodge. Had to be a Dodge, damn Mopar-driving motherfucker. That Google car rolled by while I was on the road and it caught them, just red-handed. So I know Google’s map knows where I live except tell that to this driver, this Maude or Julio or Zanzibar, this delivery driver every bit in his own little world like one of those Jap soldiers in the Philipines after the second big one and all the while my Kung Pao getting colder. 

These delivery people don’t know I’m watching them, but I am. Cameras all hidden around the house in bird feeders. Porch plants. The weathered cypress trellis covered in ivy that I made out of old boathouse wood for our fifth wedding anniversary. The wood anniversary. She got plenty of wood alright. From me. From him. Them? Remote web cams weren’t much around then like now but I’ll never get blindsided again. Once, a pizza guy snapped a picture to confirm my food was delivered then he stepped in extra and snapped again. The security cams made it clear the second time he was scoping the front door lock. I grabbed a screenshot of that from three angles and sent it to his employer with the caption, “This house protected by a crazy old man with nothing to lose.” 

I’m not, but they don’t know that and won’t deliver here no more.

* * *

When the lockdowns became the norm, I tucked myself in fine and I’ve been strictly obeying every tiny instruction from the universe as best I can. I was never the kind what needed a whole lot of structure, and after a while it became clear that fortune cookies provided the right amount of bang for the buck. The only problem is when I get no cookie or more than one. I once got five. Five, on a single order. It warranted a phone call.

“Thank you for calling China Bee what you order?” It was the owners wife. Or daughter maybe. They both talked fast in a high-pitched voice but the daughter’s Chenglish was usually better.

“I have five fortune cookies in my delivery sack,” I said. “Five.”

“Very so sorry,” she said. 

“This is racism, practically.” I shouldn’t even have to point this out.

“We happy to send more over. You are best customer. How many you need?”

“More? No, not more. Just look at the ticket. I clearly specified one fortune cookie only. Did Jesus have all the apostles preaching at the same time as him? Did Buddha have to talk over anyone? Or that Mohammed? The universe doesn’t speak all roughshod scattergun, does it?”

After a long silence she said, “Rum shot coffee? Shack her down?”

“Are you even listening? How about Confucius. Would he approve of throwing all this cookie scripture into people’s to go sacks like that? Did he ever have diarrhea of the mouth? And what about your overhead? And who needs a handful of fortunes?”

More silence and some muffled back-and-forth at the other end of the line, then the husband’s voice said, “Very sorry, sir. Next time only one. I tell everyone here.”

“Much appreciated but do you have any idea what this is putting me through? I know she’s your wife or daughter or something, but think about it, bubba.”

“Yes, I’m thinking. Again, very sorry. How about free egg roll next time?”

He wasn’t getting it but it wasn’t his fault. He had probably been back in an office running an adding machine the whole time and wearing some kind of visor. I didn’t even call the time I got the fortune cookie that had no fortune in it, and that had given rise to the kind of spiritual crisis that at one time involved vultures and hairshirts.

“How about free egg roll next two times,” I suggested. The universe helps those who help themselves.

“Ok,” the woman said. The man must’ve given her the phone and gone back to his closet. “Free egg roll next two time.”

“Yes. Thank you,” I said. “Pork.”

I bet that tiny office was full of steam from the kitchen and he wore one of those old-timey green visors to keep it out of his eyes.

“Okay thank you for calling bye-bye,” she said in her fast voice and hung up before I could answer.

I felt a little bad. Just last December when I was going in there three, four times a week she gave me a 2020 calender for being “best customer, and nice.” I’d gladly give that screwy calendar back for some fucking religious tolerance. I know they’re all godless communists over there but this is America and how hard is it to just drop one single fucking cookie in the bag?

* * *

Third time turned out to be the charm and I watched my eight views of the Prius stopping at the end of the driveway, watched the girl walk up to the house, drop the food on the doorstep from knee-height, ring the doorbell, and head back for her car, all the while talking on the phone. Fucking soup container had a hairline crack so I left it in the bag. I was going to call them about the soup when I finished eating but the fortune distracted me.

“Listen to a voice from your past,” I read on the small strip of paper while I chewed crunchy orange-flavored weirdness. There was energy in that admonishment. I sensed something major incoming and I was right. Not two days later, a girl I dated in high school who was now a divorced real estate agent sent me a magnetic calendar for my refrigerator, so I obeyed the universe and went to her office. She was in a cubicle playing solitaire on the computer. She had a bit of double chin now and short hair and kind of shapeless in the body but not fat at all. Just kind of straight and slim and soft. Her name was June Verser but I always called her “Junie Bug” not knowing much back then but now I could see it. Junie Verser. Junieverse. Was this what it was all about? So much that is hidden will eventually be made known if you trust the plan, if you have enough wits about you to read direct mail from the universe.

“I got your note,” I said after pleasantries. She seemed confused. “The calendar,” I added.

“Honey, I sent those to everyone in y’all’s zip code. That’s why they’re marked ‘Res-i-dent’.”

“Fortune cookies don’t lie, girl,” I told her. “I’ll pick you up at seven.”

She seemed hesitant at first and got quiet thinking on it, so I passed the time looking around her cubicle to get eyes off her and make her more comfortable. She had a few pictures scattered about. Mostly pets, it looked like. One old, fuzzy computer paper photo of her on a cruise with her parents was tacked up on the gray fabric wall above a row of binders kept standing by two large ceramic cat bookends on her desktop. She was tapping the rim of her coffee cup while she thought about my invite. Her nails were painted black except the index on both hands was zebra-striped. Then she put her hands together like she was praying.

“Yeah I reckon,” she said in her Junieverse voice. She was also staring at the bookends. “It would be good to catch up.”

* * *

I showed up fashionably late with flowers I picked up from a street vendor. I had to drive some thirty-seven miles out of my way until I found one because one of my fortunes from a long time ago read, “The longer the distance, the more precious the gift,” and I had yet to make good on that one but with Junie the universe had finally made it all clear. Good thing I’d found it in my wallet even thought it was stained with soy sauce and hard to read. 

She smelled the flowers, then held them out for me to smell.

“Nice,” I said.

“I haven’t had flowers in a long time.”

“Hungry then?”

“Starved,” she said.

“Where to?” I asked.

“Oh I just love Chinese food.”

Chinese food. Of course! This was it. All paths led here. I wouldn’t rush it though. I won’t pop the question until the third or fourth date.

“How about Empress of China?” she said.

Empress. Of China. That Cantonese whorehouse! “What’re you trying to do, seduce and convert me?”

“Convert?” she said. “To what?”

“Who sent you?”

“You did,” she said. “When you came to my office.”

“The Empress is a false prophet,” I said.

“I don’t know about that. I love their sweet and sour pork,” she said.

“Sweet and sour is an abomination. I only eat Kung Pao.”

“They have that too,” she said excitedly, almost giggling.

“Apostasy. They water down their menus to collect false profits.”

“Calm down, man,” she said. “It’s just food.”

“And you’re just the whore of Babylon,” I said. I snatched the flowers back and threw them in the storm sewer. The universe doesn’t promise easy answers. If I drove fast I could just make it to China Bee before they closed. I needed direction. Guidance, and I’m their best customer. They said so. When I left the parking lot and turned onto Main Street, I could see her in the rear view mirror staring at her palm and swiping with that hideous zebra finger. 

These whores and their phones.