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Bob Kokan
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Reading Bukowski

 

by Robert Kokan

 

 

I got you Bukowski

You hard-nosed old bastard all guts and gristle

Beer belly

Don’t give a damn grin

Cigarettes and whiskey

Writer of old bones and rags

Breast pocket full of poems and ponies

How at the track high on the horses

And the hard-on thrill of racing muscle

You bet on long shots because you liked their name

Or the jockey winked at you earlier

Or because you were once a long shot too

At the bell the crowd in the stands shouting

With one sweet beautiful voice

“GO! GO! GO!”

 

I see you old man

hard fast and real

You live don’t worry

And I live

Looking out at life too

Squinty-eyed

Like it’s all crazy shit

Like looking down the wrong end of a rifle

Knowing you’re the one in the crosshairs

Living like dying

Is the only thing that makes sense

If that makes any sense

But we’re both gonna live forever

Got it all down on paper baby



Carnival Days 1969

 

by Bob Kokan

 

 

Summer carnival again in this dead-horse town. A dinky-assed Ferris wheel no higher than a henhouse creaks and groans like every bolt is bent, with one-arm Willie back again, drunk, at the control.

The Tilt-a-Whirl, a paint-chipped and rusting dinosaur, is surrounded by sick-yellow lights, some that work, others just random flashing, off and on. The canopied cars smell of emptied stomachs and sour beer, and the real excitement is hoping that it all holds together long enough to get off.

Over in the beer tent, the Lions Club is drinking up the profits, and corpulent cops with big bellies and rusty guns keep watch for under-agers, while the grocery store is being robbed.

Wild little kids, their lips stained Snow-cone cherry-red, chase each other, sugar-high on too much cotton candy, and the freedom of no school, and early-to-bed mothers.

In the games yard, they have cheesy can’t-win ring toss, darts with dull points, concrete milk bottles that won’t tip in a tornado; and all the lousy prizes are recognizable leftovers from last year.

At the dunk tank, the town’s favorite floozy, dressed in her finest halter top,

cut-off short shorts, and Marlboro cap, taunts the boys, her nipples hard as marbles.

At the food pavilion, salmonella stew brews thick, and menacingly dark. People chew on butter-drenched ears of corn, ketchup their corndogs, and have used napkins stuck to their shoes.

But the parking lot is where the fun really is. First beers in the dizzy darkness result in ugly teenage groping and panties on the car’s antennae, banners flown to risen kings and fallen virtues.

Sunday comes the dumpy parade in Hicksville: fire engines and farm implements.

Boy scouts will march, picking their noses in perfect unison; hillbillies on wagons will throw stale candy to scrawny children with bad teeth, and vagrant dogs with mangy coats will snarl and fight for lost pieces.

There’ll be fake Indians on horseback; cowboys wearing extra-large hats and dinner platter belt buckles; the local VFW marching apoplectic, pot-bellied and hung over, will sweat through their too-tight uniforms. And some dumb-dick politician perched on the back of a convertible Cadillac always makes me think of Dallas schoolbook depositories and high-powered rifles.

Next comes the high school band of goobers, oompahing out of tune; all previous pie-eating champions; nerds with buck teeth, taped-up glasses, and hand-me-down uniforms.

Lastly, the hometown beauty queen, scrubbed Osmond-clean, will ride by, smiling and waving at the inbreds. Don’t question the scrapes on her knees, or why she’s cross-eyed from trying to focus on things that are a little too close.

All this horrible hoopla that passes for entertainment is really just an excuse for the rednecks to get drunk and stupid in public, like they’ve ever needed an excuse, before.

When it’s all passed by, you’ll find yourself standing, red-faced, like a schmuck, with all the other red-faced schmucks looking idiotic in shorts, socks and sandals, the street smelling of horse shit.

 

 

Christmas with Stanley

                                                                        

by Bob Kokan

                                             

 

  Well, Stanley, you nut-less mutt. It looks like its me and you for Christmas. Banished to the family room while in the kitchen, your Mommie Dearest and the evil in-laws carve up the turkey and whatever else gets in the way. You think that Snap Snap of turkey neck bones as I was walking in was just coincidence? They think I don’t know that’s me they’re carving in there? By their crooked smiles and that blissful satisfaction twisting in their eyes, must be a lot of joy in it for ‘em.

   Ah Jeez, Stan, put your leg back down will ya? Face it buddy, they’re gone. Lookin’ and lickin’ every twenty minutes ain’t gonna bring ‘em back. I guess I should have warned you at the vet that that was gonna happen. I just want you to know it wasn’t my idea. It’s always the first thing they do when they know they got you. I wouldn’t have cared if you were bangin’ old lady Klemments down the street. Probably would have done the old prune some good.

 Let’s get that sweater off you. I know she says it looks cute, but what it makes you look like is one of them California fairy dogs. We men have got to try to keep our dignity ain’t that right? What the fock, let’s just see what’s on the old Holiday telly shall we?

  Here we go. Channel eighty-four. The Andy Williams Christmas Special re-re-re-run. Really? My parents made me watch shows like this when I was a kid forty-five years ago. I can’t believe they’re still around. Some programmer sure has a mighty skimpy budget or a wicked sense of humor. Talk about bring out your dead. The Andy Williams fer Christ’s Sake Snooze-O-Rama more like it.

Look at this guy, Stan. He’s so white-bread boring, you think he ever cut a fart or picked his nose? And that awful sweater vest. Jeez God! He must have invented the damn things. I bet he had a whole dresser full of ‘em, with socks to match. Stan, I know it’s impossible but if you ever see me wearing a sweater vest you have my permission to take me out back and shoot me. Or chew my head off or somethin’.

  Okay Andy, I’m game, who ya got for guest stars? Charo?! Now here’s a broad who enters every room tits first. I can just see her “Cuchi-Cuchi-ing” back-stage with the sound boys, wigglin’ like she got an incontinence problem and not enough time to get to the can. Look at her, shedding sequins from the same red jumpsuit she’s worn to the other fifty thousand Andy Williams fer Christ’s Sake Christmas Specials. Old Cugat knew what people wanted. Some un-understandable bimbo with hair extensions who could jiggle her ass and chatter like a brainless monkey. They say she’s intelligent as hell though. Then she should cover up and get serious. Sing an aria from Evita or something. Look at her Stan, even back then she was too old for “Cuchi-Cuchi”. I’m not getting’ it up and I’ve been cut off for three months now ever since I said that Nancy Pelosi could be hot with the right negligee, the right light, and enough whiskey.

  Who else is on this thing? Charles Friggin’ Nelson-Reilly? Buddy Hackett dressed as Santa, bourbon stains down his beard? The June Taylor Syncopated Wheelchair Dancers? The Octogenarian Acrobats swapping dentures in mid-air?  That’d be a stellar line-up! The casting director for this mess could have been the Grim Reaper.

  Stan, we’re exiled in here watching this pathetic bullshit from a million years ago, while they’re in there kicking the carcass around like Pele, who I’m sure will show up next with Andy singing Feliz Navidad with the Brazilian Boys Street Urchin Choir. Nice touch! Tug at the old American heart strings a little.

  I’m sure everyone in the control booth was drunk by now on rum eggnog and cheap network whiskey, throwing tinsel around and getting naked, while poor old Andy crooned away on stage serious as a saint. These shows always make me want to take out the Uzi and write Merry Christmas on the garage wall with a spray of nine-millimeter bullets.

  Ah shit! What’s the use old boy? I need a beer! Nothin’ says Merry Christmas like a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon. Unless it’s a dozen more, cold Pabst Blue Ribbons.

  Dinner’s ready! Come and get it! Jesus! Will you listen to her bleating?  Like marching orders from General Patton’s grandma or somethin’. You think that just once, at least on Christmas, for Christ’s sake, she could say it nice, ya know.

  Well, old boy, I better go. Straight to the knives. Sorry about that nut-less crack earlier. I know just how you feel.


Robert Kokan has recently had poems published in Bramble, the ezine Breathe, the 2021 Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Calendar, and won first place in the Kay Saunders Emerging Poet contest. 

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