poetry

Indecent Exposure. {poetry}

 

Saul Bellow knew a thing or two.
He was a jack of all trades.
Adrian, Michigan was the capital of America.
If you were rich, you had a Packard and a driver.
People kept the radio on as they made love.

Sears & Roebucks was the shit.
The aroma of hot cashew nuts and Chanel #5 hit you
as you walked through the front doors.
It was nice to leave home back in 1965.
It was before women started lifting weights,
back before men started checking out each other’s
buns. “My, he has a nice ass.” That sort of language
was unheard of. Back then, people ran porn movies
in the back of their minds, not in shop windows.

Women lost weight easily. It
wasn’t cool at all to look like Aunt Jemima.
Aisle-blockers were shamed
as were their shamelessly sexy sisters.
Shame was the name of the game.
We were all raised to be ashamed of ourselves.
I know I was. I was ashamed of everyone I knew.

I was ashamed to be alive.
I was ashamed of my mother who never combed her hair.
I was ashamed of my father who had a beard.
I was ashamed of myself for losing a wrestling match
and for being an incompetent baseball player.
Had I been Jewish, I would have been ashamed of myself for getting B’s.

When the neighborhood boys chose up sides,
they’d skip me. I always got picked last.
Sports wasn’t my thing. Getting C’s on math tests didn’t help.
My father’s shitty Plymouth embarrassed me too. We were poor.
My father was white trash in silk underwear.
I was never sure if he was a fag or just a showman.
All I knew was he was a fake.

I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, a funny town, an odd place.
20 years on, it was a laughing stock.
They not only killed Martin Luther King, they let Elvis die.
What a mess!

Memphis is on the Mississippi, but nobody knew how to leave town.
The horizon was on the other side of the river, but nobody dared to cross that bridge.
We were stay-at-home types, little chickens.
Everything in Memphis was thought to be the best.
I believed the little gallery in Overton Park was bigger and better than the Met.
Second-rate was not only good enough, it was described as fine. “Who do you
think you are?” We ate chow mein from a can. We put butter on our white rice
with black pepper. We thought sliced bread was a thing of wonder.
We salted our watermelon. We were racists.

My best friend Matt was accused of having combed his pubes and the boys
almost drove him to suicide. I was told at a middle-school party
to stand up and kiss my so-called girlfriend on the lips,
but that year at age 13 I didn’t know how or why.
I stood in the middle of the room and died.
One day I was singing the lyrics to the Stones’ “Satisfaction” as I entered geography
class. One of the girls sniffed, “How would you know?”
If you were not a stud, you were a dud. I felt surrounded by wolves.
It’s a miracle I survived or
maybe I didn’t. I still can’t sleep at night. I still wet my bed.

And yet when I look back I wonder how I ever left. I left so much behind.
I gave up all that for this. I gave up Faulkner for Vanity Fair. I gave up the blues
for rap. I gave up everything I knew for the unknown. It is still unknown. It will
always be so. I will always be lost. I will never find my way home.

***

David Lohrey grew up in Memphis. He graduated from U.C., Berkeley. His plays have appeared in the UK, Switzerland, India and, most recently, in Croatia. His ‘In a Newark Minute’ and ‘Sperm Counts’ were translated and produced in Estonia (2016). His poetry can be found in Softblow, The Blue Mountain Review, Otoliths, Cecile’s (The Hague) and Quarterday, His poem ‘Muddy Water’ has been selected by the Limerick Arts Office to appear in the Stony Thursday Book for 2016. In addition, recent poems have been accepted as part of anthologies published by the University of Alabama (Dewpoint), Illinois State University (Obsidian) and Michigan State University (The Offbeat). David is a member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective in Houston, Texas. His recent fiction can be read in ‘Crack the Spine’ and at inshadesmag.com. His book ‘The Other Is Oneself‘, a study of 20th century literature, was published this year in Germany. He is currently writing a memoir of his years living in Saudi Arabia. He teaches in Tokyo.

***

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