D. A. Powell

confidence man
midway charmer, indiscriminately flexed his smile
            a mask of liquor, the rowdy cowpoke
though his spangles came from a vintage shop
            and rough times meant beach house
and beach house meant trust fund.    and trust
            meant—let us say shameless, to be kind.   
do you wish to doodle for a while on his photo?
            draw horns, then, where there ought to be horns
and a heart where there should have been a heart
            a bigger blank where definitely there was a blank
were you a sucker?    sure:  planchette of the ouija board
            unsubtle pads of his hands steered your head
into spaces marked YES and YES and, one time
            made you spell out MY NAME IS JOSHUA RUSSO
or something like that.    frankly wasn’t it all a little garbled
            that western-style belt got in the way
its buckle, like an inconvenient tombstone, scraped at your nose
            when you opened the casket inside his earthy mound
he stood as the momentary resurrection of a childhood friend
who might have been called billy, who might
have suffocated, cyanotic in his turtleneck, one-gallon hat
            who might have staged his own death, might have
plotted yours.    in the hayloft in the barn—
            why not allow that at least the setting was genuine?
for history is imprecise and all buildings fall to ruin—
            he laid out his hokum, he laid out his bunk
on his back, on his belly, cheap accordion of his buttocks
            faux-pearl buttons chipping as they hit the floor
the stink of his rucksack, ruined by rain, the stink
            of his unwashed scrotum, the dry slit of his knob
the driblets, the abdicated parts, the thing he slid into you
            the pinky, the prod, the extension of him
the boodle, the wad, the carnival ride with the broken gear

            you know how it is when you’re sick, disoriented:
too many corndogs, funnel cakes, sideshows, come-ons

            step right up, it’s frontierland, it’s the wild wild west
three-card monte, one-eyed jack:  throw down your dollar
            my lucky friend:  follow, my boy, my lucky lucky boy


© 2008 Electronic Poetry Review