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Otto Burnwell
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SPIGOT

 

by Otto Burnwell


Momma swallowed up her anger
squatting next to cars,
sucking off the strangers
she found in parking lots
at mini-marts, and liquor stores,
and rowdy biker bars.

When rage would overtake her,
when her devils drove her out
to consume the thing that vexed her,
she flew away to scourge the night,
prowling barefoot in her nightgown,
a rage in need of dousing.

“She’s going for a walk,” said daddy,
or “letting off some steam.”
The Kansas night might do her good
to take a cooling breath of air.
“Get to bed and leave her go,”
drinking deep until she’s sated.
What else was there to say?

She inhaled the Kansas night
through hard and fleshy spigots.
Working open rusty zippers
on the pants of nameless men,
through dirty briefs and pubic hair
to find the prick inside.

A piece of ass to men,
a piece of shit to women,
a piece of work from God’s own hand,
to the pastor at her graveside
that daddy brought along
to pray her off to heaven.

 



Woman of Good Hard Hands

by Otto Burnwell

 

There was murder in the bag
carried by the woman of good hard hands.

Getting on the downtown bus,
she rode the whole long way to Chelsea.
Passengers who bothered looking
saw her hands were fit for hardy work,
hands that must have seen a lot of use.

They couldn’t help but notice
the silky lingerie and hair
in the shopping bag between her ankles.
A wig most likely,
dropped in without much thought,
on a purple bra and panties,
and shoes, like black stilettoes,
an ice-pick heel poked through the side.

It made the other riders
wonder at a woman
who would carry her possessions
in such a careless way.

An aging hooker, maybe,
too tired and long in her profession
to care about the get-up
she’s worn so many nights?
Perhaps a weary nanny,
carrying a costume
for an absent-minded student
in a progressive school for girls?

One guy got it right,
but that was accidental,
guessing they were trophies
from the body of her rival
to confront a faithless husband.

None of them could ever guess
the way she spilled the contents
on her husband’s office desk,
announcing how she dumped the body
outside a nameless little town
with a picture and his card.
Someone’s sure to find it,
unless the local cops are morons.
Or—he can get there first.

Now the husband spends his nights and weekends
prowling all the side roads
between Manhattan and Coxsackie
for the body of a missing lover
who may or may not lie strangled
by the woman of good hard hands.


 


Scar

by Otto Burnwell

 

The wound is crusting over,

but the damage will remain,

and a scar that will bind him

to the woman he betrayed.

 

Standing nearly naked

in the hallway at a mirror,

he traces with his finger

where she tried to take his balls.

Missed the femoral artery

and opened up his knee.

Doctor said he’ll limp awhile

but should be good as new.

 

Skin will twist and harden

to cover meat and bone,

but his nerves will give a shiver

to touch another blade.

It comes like dullish pulsing,

blood dashing through his veins,

to feel that fucking razor

slicing through his flesh again.

 

The sight of all that blood

gave them both a feral shock.

She only meant to scare him,

afraid he’d laugh away her rage.

Then full of cruel bravado,

she licked the bloody steel

and skinned a layer from her tongue

while he curled up, crimson on the floor.

 

His pals tell him, dump her.

He often thinks he should.

But when she calls him to the bedroom,

he can’t help but go to join her.

What makes him choose to stay?

She claimed him for herself

and marked him with a scar,

a brand he'll always wear.

 

Two sad and lonely people

let lust and jealous rage

take hold and bind them

in an angry fist of love.



She Sings the Rum Song to Me

by Otto Burnwell

 

“Treat older women as you would your mother…”

— 1 Timothy 5:2

 

She sings the Rum Song to me

and drapes herself in Christmas lights.

She tells me how she spent the night

at the bedside of her dying aunt.

 

She sings the Rum Song to me

so I won’t worry where she was,

and fret to see the scrapes and bruises

on her hips and thighs and knees.

 

She sings the Rum Song to me,

swears she’s not gone back to smoking

and says the smell of that tobacco

is the bar from half-mile up the street.

 

She sings the Rum Song to me

peeling off her wrinkled clothing.

She’s got a red lace thong on backward

and her bra is inside out.

 

She sings the Rum Song to me

and says, yes, she may have had a couple,

but she took no drinks from strangers.

At least, as far as she remembers.

 

She sings the Rum Song to me

and does recall this kind of young guy

who cooed while pouring up Negronis,

“it’s older women who’re the hotties.”

 

She sings the Rum Song to me,

little more than mumbling now.

She’s face down in her pillow

so I’ll know to let her sleep alone.

 

She sings the Rum Song to me.

When the years go flying by too fast,

and she feels her power crack and fade,

she hunts the boys who filled her younger days.



 

 

Whiskey at the Horseman

by Otto Burnwell

 

 

“. . . and nothing hidden that will not be made known.”

—Luke 12:2

 

She could have gotten clean away

if she hadn’t stopped for whiskey

at the Horseman down the road.

 

Marlie Ann McPherson,

that mousy third-grade teacher,

fed up and filled with fury,

drove out to find her husband

among the cars, and bars,

and shitty motor inns.

She caught him at the Ten Mile overpass

where it crosses old Division Road.

 

It’s a dark and handy place to park

where the moonlight doesn’t reach

to disturb a pair of hasty lovers.

 

Some say it marks remorse,

some say it gives a warning,

the roadside relic she improvised

from his cotton-poly boxers

and the woman’s lacy g-string

she stapled to the concrete trestle

with the nail gun that she used

to kill the lovers in the front seat of his car

 

Shaking, cold, and spent,

she rinsed the blood as best she could

in a culvert’s icy, brackish water.

 

It might have been their dying voices,

or the cry of angels in lament,

or a glimpse of Kingdom Come

and the faces of her victims

Waiting at the throne of judgment,

or the chill November wind

that made her stop for whiskey

at the Horseman down the road.

 

A place she’d never been,

she walked in like she owned it,

then bummed a cigarette and match.

 

She could have had her drink in peace

if she hadn’t moved the bodies,

or simply thought to change her clothes,

or if Vince, the barkeep on that night,

had failed to notice

her bloody knees and sleeves,

which made him call the law,

and brought state troopers in to fetch her.

 

She didn’t make a fuss,

but stubbed the cig and paid her tab

when they came around to cuff her.

 

They won’t leave it up much longer,

her tribute to a murdered marriage

that her careless husband fucked to death.

Have a look—before the county

sends a crew to take it down.

Still, she might have gotten clean away

if she hadn’t stopped for whiskey

at the Horseman down the road.

 

 

Otto is riding out the pandemic in a densely populated, urban area, with a few million of his closest neighbors, wondering how much pain we can inflict on each other and still call it love.  This piece comes out of that.
He writes to stay sane, uses a pseudonym to stay employable, and changes enough detail in what he writes to stay welcome at the family’s holiday gatherings—in some future to be named later.
He’s recently placed pieces with Terror House MagazineHorror, Sleaze, TrashThe Oddville PressFiction on the WebThe Stray Branch, and Yellow Mama.
 




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