WINNIPEG DOWNS from Three Blocks West of Wonderland

Ekstasis Editions, 2009

I’m finally coming up for air after 10 manic days of mania, albeit with a skewered neck and pain radiating up the entire left side of my skull. Occasionally it will roost in my temple or behind my ear. Well it’s true that the only out is through so here I sit, too messed up to focus or write so will blog another day and in the meantime share a poem from the new book, Three Blocks West of Wonderland.


Games of chance. Sleight of hand. Games invented
to wash us out of her lush, chestnut hair,
setting little sister and me off to stoop and scoop
discarded tickets. Plucky as yard hens. Two bags
full. Staggered, not by one-too-many beers
but a winning wager, she whooped I can buy
you girls supper
! Dragged around like carrion
in a diesel-rank yellow Beetle, we fought

to hide in the nausea-inducing verboten slot
where balled-up fists could not reach.
Dutifully she ordered a Mama burger
though professing to prefer the Teen. Two bites. I bet
she had no appetite after six months of whiplash prescription.
Her lumpy thumbs hefted fivers, entering the weekly lottery,
blowing crumbs of crud off a scratch & win ticket between pulls
on a machine-rolled fag, corduroy car coat pockmarked
with cigarette burns. Bingo-lottery-horse-and card-playing loser.

My hand. A mother rather like that species
of turtle that leaves the clutch in a lurch to hatch,
scuttling down to the tavern, I mean, ocean. To be fair,
she always returned to pour salt on our sugar
sandwiches or fry up some baloney. Midnight shuffle
back to our shack behind the white fence of birch
to catch me in the hook of her hand, give me something
to cry about. On special occasions
her bad nerves, moods, might recede.
Christmas especially mollified her.

A waitress—blinded by Chinese restaurant-light
brutal as the belly of an illuminated submarine—
she did not see us, our saucer eyes, our brightness,
so busy she was rubbing lucky charms
and rusty magic lamps. Telling stories. Lying
in bed reading True Confessions, liking her coffee crisp.

She can rest in her La-Z Boy, now that the little buggers
are grown. Against all odds.
Now that she’s toothless, painless and respectable
except for the plethora of aces up her sleeve.
In no position to coerce, she cajoles
us into playing gin rummy. Crib. I have to laugh,
the way she groans when dealt the joker,
as if she knows him intimately.

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