POETRY AND PROSE

America: Election 2008 

out in  
the real america, where real god  
loving americans ate chicken-fried  
steak with fat-back grits and jalapeno  
hush puppies, two travelers sat for yom  
kippur dinner at The Y’all Come Back Café  
in Rains County, Texas.

my  
recently deceased, 21-year-old  
son sat by my side, as was his custom  
in those days, ordered the house-special fresh-fried  
catfish basket with slaw smothered cheese fries and sweet tea, 

then slid back  
behind the Rains County sheriff who sat contemplatively at The 

Table of Knowledge picking corn bread crumbs from  
the table of his belly, 45 strapped to his side, to  
check out the soup and salad bar.

 

meanwhile, my parents in Florida had  
turned off the phone and begun their fast, my  
85-year old father, too terrified to die, too confused to 

meet the maker he’d despised since the day 60 years before his  
three-month old son, my brother, had been taken by SIDS as his 

mother, my  
mother, made a sandwich in the kitchen, his grief so complete he wouldn’t work again for an entire year, began his practiced prayers of absolution on The Day of Atonement. 

I remember well, being scared  
shitless on The Day of Atonement, desperately 

determined to think only pure thoughts, pure thoughts, as  
I walked the three blocks to the temple mom and dad sent 

me to but didn’t attend, except on The Day of Atonement, the  
day it was said that God would write your name in The Book of Life, or 

not, the day that determined whether you would live another year, or not, and I 

imagined that it all came down to the thoughts I’d had that day: pure thoughts, pure thoughts ... or not— 

meanwhile, the basket and sweet  
tea arrived with the sweet plump waitress  
wearing the I Did WHAT Last Night? tee-shirt, and my 

son, who always knew my mind, then glanced that sly sideways  
glance of his, then mouthed the grace we’d always said as family, my son 

my wife and me, ‘thank you for this food, thank you for this family, thank you 

for all the good things in our life,’ then doubly  
delighted, he dug right on in. 

II 

There once was this  
guy named Mickey, a thalidomide  
baby from the fifties, when drug-testing was less 

regulated and more  
republican, who was born with no arms who wore the same  
orange jumpsuit each and every morn who sat at the same spot 

at the diner drinking java who used his toes to hold his steaming  
cup a joe, he'd built this one-man lawn-care 

company, the town gave him lots of work but  
not charity, believe you me he diligently and doggedly did the work you’d see him here and there 

dragging bags of brush with his teeth, ferociously toe-wielding weed-wacker, you betcha, in some circles he became the living breathing embodiment of all joe 

six pack red white and blue american red neck blue collar white guys who'd wedded a black wife who’d fathered 12 kids who’d somehow figured a way to wipe his ass who'd succeeded in 

becoming just another armless guy in an orange jumpsuit at the diner sipping coffee at the counter with his toes. One day as he 

drove  
down the highway, he spotted a smoking car by the  
side of the road and damned if he didn't see that elderly  
lady trapped inside. No shit 

he then  
shattered the windshield with his bare feet then dragged the  
old lady out with his teeth as the car then exploded into  
flame. The story went everywhere 

instantly, he appeared on Rosie, she gave him a brand new pimped out ride equipped with all the latest cool handicapped shit, the Today Show then came calling; they too got a few usable segments out of it. Mickey then tried to 

market his story, it was a real good story, a real nearly  
normal American hero, that one, but it never quite got done so he 

kept mowing lawns and sipping coffee at the diner then one night got drilled by a drunk  
driver running the red light downtown. 

III 

I just now pick up the phone, some  
pollster asks if my dead son was home, I said I wished  
he was, my dad then calls with FOX breaking news: Obama had been raised immersed in Muslimism, a sleeper cell set to unleash generational 

jihad upon a left-lumbering, slumbering 

America. I then lashed back, you wanna 

talk about real americans, you wanna  
talk about real american values, before he 

then, again  
hung back up on me ... 

I then remember that dappled not-so- 

distant day my son and I had line-stood two 

hours to vote in the primary, recalled the laughter and hope and stupidity, then wrote mom and dad a hurried note, said something about how much I 

missed them, and would soon come again  
soon to see them. 

IV 

I once had this  
neighbor who’d once 

had this husband who’d once  
been both a doc and fighter-jock. I’d once seen 

pictures of both she and he, square-  
jawed strength and security for their three boys aged  
three through thirteen, then seen flagged-filled pics of both bush 

the  
elder and she as he then became the first casualty on the  
first night our country ‘tis of thee first  
blanket-bombed Baghdad, his 

plane the first blanked from that sky that night--of course for  
years and years she then again never found another guy so complete to 

compete with the  
memory of  
that one. 

I once took my once quite-young son downtown to  
old Baltimore Arena, downtown there in old Bawl-mer  
before the brothels and bars on The Block became boutique  
Disney brothels and bars, saw the Knicks play the Bullets before 

they became the Wizards; wizards in Washington? Anyway, this big 

big ol’ dude behind he and me, I mean really  
really flesh-rippling hope-he-don’t-sit-next-to-me on the plane  
big, kept 

yapping, "Yo Pearl, give ‘em that ol’ hoobie 

doobie, give ‘em that hoobie doobie now." 

My son, who  
always knew my mind, who lived well and loved  
life 

then glanced  
that sly sideways  
glance, then said to me that 

dappled not so distant  
day he and I stood then voted in the 

primary, "Yo Daddy, let's you 'n me go give ‘em  
some ‘o that ol’ hoobie doobie now." 

VI 

Election Day, 2008: late, very  
late that night, my father on earth calls from florida, says he’s very 

very cold, says mom needs the fans and air conditioner full  
blast because she’s got no internal thermostat since 

her hysterectomy, says he’s reading  
Louie L’Amour, that amoebas or space  
men spawned humanity, that he wished it weren’t so 

damn cold and he wasn’t so damn old; then again says 

goodnight, and again, don’t let the damn bed bugs bite.