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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Featuring the poetry of Frank Reardon

at nineteen he ran through
the jungles
with a telephone on
his pack
screaming out for his mama
while bullets aimed directly
at the receiver
ten inches from his head
zipped by his body.

at twenty
he carried a pack of Marlboro's
in his helmet
and played poker
outside the crumbling walls
of Hue
with the other unfortunate boys
who made it past
the initial three week
trial period.

at twenty-one
he smoked opium
and listened to The Doors
in sandbag bunkers
with Big Jim Stone
from Fort Wayne,
together they learned
the essential hate trade
with the words gook
and charlie.

at twenty-two
he kissed a Saint Michael medal
with long napalm tears
covered in mud
when he couldn't
remember if he had killed
five or fifteen men
with a Jamming Jenny.

at twenty-three
after taking two in the leg,
one worth a ticket home,
the other, smashing one
of his baby makers
into a million pieces;
he was airlifted high above
long lines
of black body bags
in the Vietnamese sun

at twenty-five
they gave him a minimum
wage job
in the post office
where he spent long nights
locked in the bathroom
vomiting guilt, death,
screams and panic attacks

at forty-five
he developed a skin condition
called Orange
and he sold his war stories
to anyone who would listen
to the emotional vampire
who pushed his forearm weight
down on a child's throat

at fifty-three
he had a massive heart attack,
the jungle escape routes
in his arteries hardened
from years of smoke, misery,
fear, hate and judgement

at fifty-five,
after many years of midnight
ghosts that haunted
his dreams, who came to him
screaming with legs, arms
and faces blown off.
After years of unknown voices
screaming "baby killer"
into his empty skull,
After thirty long fuckin' years
the mental hospital finally
taught him how to cry
when they unlocked
their enormous iron doors

at sixty
he went to Washington D.C.
to visit The Wall,
and he searched for hours,
looking for names, names
that haunted
his sleepless nights,
names that he tried to put
back together but couldn't,
names he carried on his shoulders
like ten tons of steel
day in and day out

and when he finally found one,
he soon found another
and then another,
he moved his fingers
along the chipped away granite
that spelled out their names,
and when he took a breath
it was his first breath
in forty years
because he finally realized
that a forgotten friend in the hands of the living
is made from dust.

Everyday Larry walks into the lumber yard
with his head down due to years of bad posture.
His hair, fake or not, looks like a blond toupee,
and he twiddles his fingers in mad circles
when he speaks. Mona, the cashier,
calls him "Lonely Larry." She says it whenever
he leaves the room. "Lonely Larry, poor-poor,
Lonely Larry." During the day Larry is a lumber
merchandiser and he takes his job very seriously
even if his corduroy pants are pulled up over
his belly button. He looks like a giant Weeble
most days, and he's a massive billowing shit-talker
from years of love lost, everyday. While fastening the Velcro
straps on his gray sneakers, Larry likes to remind
me of his youth, how in his 20s he was a ladies' man,
a sure-fire chick magnet. He says it was
all due to his over-use of cologne and gold chains.
I find it hard to believe, especially since his work apron
has his name painted on it with large purple letters
and bedazzled silver rhinestones, though he's done
a great job convincing himself of his prowess. Whenever Kayla,
the woman with the perfect ass, the woman who can
speak perfect French, says "hi," Larry's
fake deep voice turns high-pitched and nasally.
He's 60, but whenever that French painting
struts by with her big black boots he turns
into himself:  quiet, nervous, perverted, the shy little boy.
At night Larry is a quiz show genius, a Game Show Network
lunatic. Sitting in his father's old leather recliner,
he tries to solve puzzles on The Wheel of Fortune
while sucking root beer from a straw. "Buy a vowel!"
he shouts as he twists off the top of an Oreo
so he can lick the cream filling.
"Why won't she buy a fucking vowel!?" he asks
his purple and yellow canary sitting in its brass cage,
but the bird never replies, it just sits
on a perch rapidly moving its head and chirping a song.
Poor-poor Lonely Larry, the game shows are over
and the symphony has gotten so cruel
with night songs that Larry must go under his bed
and pull out the old box with the frayed cardboard cover.
Inside: ancient comic books that he had saved since
he was a child. And with teeth clenched upon bottom lip,
he savours each action packed square,
each crime fighter's heroic action, each word floating
inside its cartoon bubble. The hands are weak, the sweat
is real, the foreboding feeling in the dark pulls
at lost eyes and surrounds him with panic.
Soon Larry will climb into bed. "Gotta get up at 4 a.m.
and do it all over again," he'll whisper to himself.
It's the same thing each day and night, the perfect
hell on earth, relived day after day and night after night.
The perfect assassin with the perfect bullet,
inching closer and closer by the second until
it burrows in us all
and plants the great seed of denial.


She likes to dance on the back deck
in her tight jeans and listen
to Bluegrass: Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs,
Lester Flatt. She spins in circles.
Her hair, an array of sharp knives,
cuts through the sun and splatters
it all over the sky. She's fast banjo honey.
She's still spinning.

Somewhere outside
Tomah, Wisconsin,
upon numb ass,
tired and defiled,
the Amish man
who smelled of bologna
and odd starch
leaned in and asked
if I was a farmer.

His beard of no moustache,
his hat of straw,
his shirt of blue tears,
and his crazy eyes
from another man's nightmare
awaited my response
with a boot tap.

I contemplated
the question
for a moment
as I watched
the big dipper
touch the new earth
from the night window
of a narrowing
greyhound seat.


As I piss on the empty beer cans
outside the backdoor,
I watch the steam
of all that's still possible
rise up from the ashes
like an angry set of fangs
preparing to bite down on all
that has been given.

at my grandfather's wake
Uncle Leo & i
smoked cigarettes
in the Croswell Funeral Home

Leo's face: drawn out,
blank, quiet
& listless
as he inhaled
Lucky Strike
after Lucky Strike
into his bony
&narrow face,

Leo must've smoked
15 non filtered
to every one of mine

& it did not phase him,
in fact, he never once
coughed or uttered
a single word to me,

until, i asked
"Uncle Leo,
what was my grandfather
like when he was younger?"

Leo leaned forward
from the chair
& let the slits
of his blue eyes
cut through
the smoke cloud

"he was the toughest
i ever knew!" he shouted
"there was not one
who could've out drank,
out worked,
out punched,
or out lived Francis!"

& as quickly as he
to me
he once again

back to his
safe & secure cloud
of smoke,

where each one
of his inhales
sent him
back to his youth
so he could have
at least
one more beer
with his brothers
in South Boston

&his cloud of smoke
continued to grow
around our heads

he had to keep
more & more

with each exhale
came the agonizing
that he was truly
the last one

Frank Reardon was born in 1974 in Boston, Massachusetts, currently lives in Monot, North Dakota. Frank has been published in many reviews, journals and online zines. His first book, Interstate Chokehold, was published by NeoPoiesis Press in 2009 as well as his second collection Nirvana Haymaker 2012. His third poetry collection Blood Music was published by Punk Hostage Press late 2013. In 2014 Reardon published a chapbook with Dog On A Chain Press titled The Broken Halo Blues.