[This imagined account of a real life experience helped clear the debris out of my mind. Fortunately I am no longer a landlord!]


1. Lullaby

Heather, back from
a hard day at the office
fires up the crack pipe
for a quick shot of euphoria
before she has to heat up
the TV dinners.

Jake and Fred out late again
foraging in the streets
for parked cars
with something in them
and open doors. It’s a hard living
when the cops know you
and the fences are cheap bastards
and the cars are locked.

Maybe they’ll come home
with a few bucks.
Maybe the fool
who owns this house
will fail again to get
the cops over with the notice.

Maybe tomorrow
there will be money from somewhere.

For now
at least the baby is asleep.

2. Things Left Behind

The syringes
the cops found floating
in the basement
they were for the baby’s medicine
we kept forgetting.

The photos weren’t real.
We found those crack pipes
in the street
and posed with them for fun
before we threw them away.

The stuff that was left
after the things the cops took back–
that someone else stole
and dumped on us–
those were our real things:

the mahogany dresser
my grandpa brought back from Borneo
the mirror framed in diamonds
the silk dress.

Those papers on the floor
that the cops just threw away
those were poems of
Emily Dickinson
that no one ever saw before
and never will see again.

3. From the jail window
snow reflects so bright you can’t
see the Milky Way.

4. Hearing

Honey, did you see the look
on the judge’s face
when I told her my new boss
would put up the three grand?

Man, they’ll believe anything!

So, she only let us stay
for one more week
but by then
I’ll have a whole new story.

Women do this better.
So if you just stay quiet,
smile, look at the floor,
let me handle things.
We’re doing OK so far.

5. Needle

Needle penetrates
like a lover
never soft
always takes me
to the right place.

All day long
pretending in the office
waiting for that
sharp sweet kiss.

The boss makes me laugh,
the clients, the landlord,
the stupid woman from the county
the judge.
No one knows my secret
my love who takes me
away, away

6. Going Off the Road

That car they took back
I didn’t give a shit for.
Piece a crap, all dented
where Jake got careless
& his friends were having fun.
Screw it. They can have it.

But this new one we rented
I liked that car.
Shiny silver gray
like a cloud
like a bullet
and power! man
that thing could take off.
I even liked to scare Jake
the way I’d fly out the driveway.
Once I even forgot the baby
was in the car.

So I’m sorry what happened.
Jake’s fault. Always is.
Burning my ass about
I forgot the beer.
Who the hell needs beer?
Piss going in, piss coming back out.
You only borrow beer.

So anyway I’m back in the car
flying out the driveway
down the road
forgot the curve.

You can still see the rubber
where it goes off
where I crushed the tree.

Company just took it.
Didn’t care why, ask, anything.
Just took it.

If I ever go back
to this miserable nowhere road
I’ll probably still see
the rubber. Remind me
of losing it.

Think I won’t go back.

7. Chrysalis

Emerging from her steel & concrete cocoon
Heather blinks at the sun.

Suddenly free from the Land of Crime
she is reborn
a fat butterfly
with wings woven of polyester

ready to fly to her baby
for a couple of days of Motherhood

before she hits the streets again
ready to peddle her pudgy ass
for a fix

8. Lullaby II

Hush li’l baby, don’t you cry.
Mommy comin’ out from jail bye ‘n bye.

When she busy ‘n can’t find Pa
she gonna stick you with Grandma.

Mommy care for you and full of hope
days when she ain’t doin’ dope.

But when that mocking bird do sing
Mommy don’t care ’bout anything.

9. Daycare Tales

It was fun.
Policemen came.
They put handcuffs on Daddy.
Then they took him away.

Daddy was angry.
He said lots of bad words
real loud.

It’s OK.
He’s not really my Daddy.

Real Daddy got out last week.
He came to see me.
He brought us all cookies.

10. Languishing (Report from Jake)

It’s just as boring in here
as it was in the old jail.

Concrete and steel
have no colors.
Neither do our orange uniforms.

Every day same as the last
except when I’m taken out,
get judged, come back again.

No color in the food, either.
What flavor jello was that, anyway?

At night I dream of the unlocked door,
prowling the streets,
dodging patrols and civilians.
Home at midnight
unloading the car
hiding stuff in the woods
that I didn’t even know what I had
scaring owls
and then into the house
ruffle the baby’s hair
a sandwich and a few beers
maybe even a quickie before
she passes out again.

More life in memories
than in this gray world.

11. Sentence.

Seven to ten? Hell,
that ain’t shit.
Do five maybe.

Five years I’ll be 34.
Who ever thought I’d last that long?

Come out jail-lean.
Ladies all like me. Pussy
everywhere I look.

Need new connections
but some always around.
Maybe even learn a trade.

It’ll be a snap.
Yeah, I’ll do alright.

Leslie Gerber 9/12-21/07

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