EFFICIENCY, BOWLING GREEN, OH
I lived in an ancient motel turned into efficiencies
barely big enough for the double bed.
Two electric burners and a sink.
Four friends from Michigan came to visit.
So happy to see them, I poured beer
over their heads, up their sleeves. They in turn
did not hurt me. I'd started smoking again.
I blamed the whole state of Ohio. In the small town
you could walk everywhere and nowhere
and in between. Three bars — two with the word
"Dead" in their names. The wind smacked us upside
our drunken little heads. One friend, a woman,
shared the bed with Marc. The rest of us lay
on indoor-outdoor carpet in a U-shape around them.
We listened to each other breathe in that stinky room.
Months later, in the middle of a shower, the entire wall
of plastic tiles crashed down on me. It could happen
that quickly. An awkward bruise, an unfamiliar
number, a misplaced ring. When the phone rang, I didn't
answer it. Nobody did. They might've done something
under the covers, Marc and Lee Ann. The sound
would've been a blessing. Maybe I heard it, maybe I didn't.
In the morning, I made eggs and instant coffee
and Tang. We stood without coats in the ravaged parking lot.
I lived in #2. There was no #1. We smoked and coughed
and laughed till they drove back to Michigan
and I walked down to work at the Korner Grill.
Maybe they'd stolen Marc's K and stuck him
with the C. At least they didn't add an E on Grill.
My ex was back in Michigan — her name ended in E.
The woman I'd followed to Ohio was lost in between
the O and o where the clouds had numbers
and the hills were either imaginary
or man-made or laced with unknown
chemicals. I slept at the foot of the bed
and was almost never happier. Four friends.
If I was a dog, I'd have licked their feet.
The U can be a beautiful letter, softly catching
falling things. The room key, attached
to a large plastic motel, jabbed my pocket
like a worn knife. My friends convinced me to use
my porch light for its radiant yellow,
its optimistic glow. In case somebody might
come home, even if it was only me.
from Revolt of the Crash-Test Dummies
(Eastern Washington University Press)
Jim Daniels is the Jack Daniels of American poetry workingclass joes and janes — a college teacher with a great ear and eye for the American tale. To tell you the truth (always) I was packing this book up for a customer this morning and had to glance through the poems again. This poem caught my fancy as did so many others, but I can only balance the book open with one page wedged under my leg and a new biography of Hamsun holding down the other side of the book so I can read (squint) and type. Hopefully I got it all right.