Fall 2009 / Issues / Poetry 2009 / Volume 40

Hades Tailgating — Jesse Dunstan

A friend of mine died

singing Sinatra’s “My Way”.

Didn’t look so autonomous to me;

tubes exiting every orifice; more like a

marionette, tangled up in his own strings.

We work after midnight, my partner and I,

when most debtors are asleep and unsuspecting.

We get-around in a pale Ford Mustang,

‘PLEASE WASH ME’ written in dirt on the rear window.

Most of the time it’s me talking, him swerving to hit rabbits:

Hindus say Death rides a black buffalo,

uses a lasso to round up his victims….

Then Death’s a cowboy, he realizes,

his massive arm sailing out the window, like you and me.

People reckon us thieves,

as though what we’re stealing

were rightfully theirs in the first place.

Others aim to kill us, like that old lady

with the shank taped to the end of her cane,

stabbing at me through the passenger side window

as I struggled to rig her car with my screwdriver.

I could hear my partner laughing clear across the street.

We go out drinking and he shows the gals

the stretch marks on his lower back.

Says he was attacked by a mountain lion.

Meanwhile, I’m slumped over the bar

like a wet coat, always watching the clock.

Realists like me take their whiskey straight.

Morning comes and I visit the church

where I was baptized as a kid,

only now it’s a 99¢ store.

There’s a section in the back

where you can find switchblades

and lighters with naked ladies on them.

I set myself down on a curb out front,

asphalt hotter that a seat in hell.

A little girl passes, tugging on her Mother’s dress.

Mommy, she asks, what’s wrong with that man?

And I almost wish Mommy had answered,

because I too would like to know.

But If there be angels

eavesdropping over those amorphous

balconies of clouds, I’ll have them know:

when the ‘Repo-Man’ comes for me–

that intrepid specter of death–

whether with slim-jim or scythe–

he can have what he came for.

I won’t fuss or fight

or bite off a piece of his forearm

like that cannibalistic mother-of-three did to me.

I only aim to ask, before I turn up my toes,

if I may pause and take a moment

to say I’m sorry for a few things.

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