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Hard Uncles

ISSUE:  Fall 2014

Leroy, wisdom in a chuckle, 
            Gold chains drape around his neck—
                         High yellow on high yellow— 

He broadcasts, I’ve been young, but you’ve never 
            Been old. “Mid City,” like his claims, 
                         Stitched bold across his cap. 

Hard Uncles—cool cats who can Billy Preston 
            In patent leather. Nothing from nothing
                         Is their way, something they’ve taught their   

Manicured hands—how to be quick-witted and quick to grab. 
            Ron’s, Tennessee Totty, all ass and no body.
                         Bones on a table, fast as a fish fry, fast

As gambling two weeks of wages away. 
            Mike on the phone from Vegas and Gary
                         In the back—Roll another one, Freddie B.

Smoke and booze hold hands,
            Swing from the ceiling and
                         Into everyone’s eyes.  

If you ain’t ready to lose, don’t bring 
            Your cissy butt down here, 
                         Tee “The Shoe Doctor” blurts out, 

A notice for all pacemakers
            And the faint of funds. 
                         How the heart stops 

When money is lost in a heap. 
            How the heads of proud men swell 
                         Or retract, puff or crumble.  

John Paul whispers in my ear, anything 
            Better than sex and watermelon, 
                         Leave it alone, his finger extending

Toward someone in the corner holding
            A bowl full of empty luck— 
                         A wallet full of poor decisions.

It’s nearly 1 A.M. 
            At this point, excuses are more eager
                         Than the pot. Leroy gets some 

Shoe polish from the closet and blots his lie.
            Honey, that damn car broke down again, 
                         He rehearses, laughter barreling into a cab.

His drunken squint and wink—
            His two-fingered blessing
                         Shakes the fog away. 

He’s been down this road
            Before— home the hard way, 
                         And a joker up his sleeve.



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