Men at Work
For driving way faster than anybody else,
I do hours of community service along
the 10 freeway. I get an orange coverall
and somebody else’s gloves. There
must be a hundred Big Gulp cups.
I’m paired up with a guy named Justin
who says the debris along the 101
is primo. Once he found some pants that
fit his cousin. Then he looks down
and there’s a wallet. No license or plastic,
no cash but in the little sleeves where
anybody else might keep snaps of his wife
or kids there’s nothing but holy cards.
Jesus and his mom, of course. And then
some real doozies: the Novena of the Infant
Jesus of Prague and Our Lady Undoer
I drink some lukewarm water.
I hear rats rustle through the ivy.
“Hope this dude’s alright,” Justin says.
I tell him about the priest who made me
memorize patron saints: Bernadette for
shepherds, Florian for chimney sweeps,
Valentine for bee keepers.
A saint for anyone who did anything.
There’s probably even one for Justin and me:
guys by the side of the road doing penance.
at a taco joint a couple go at each other while their four-year
old moves a tiny brontosaurus around the table.
He dips its head into the hot sauce and the guacamole.
It stands in the refried beans.
Suddenly a tyrannosaurus looms from behind the chips,
“Why do you have to dress like such a slut.”
The boy’s mother plucks the dinosaur from the beans
and wipes its feet on her napkin. She pushes her son’s hair
back so she can kiss his forehead.
He takes his mother’s hand, opens it up and makes a bed
for the monsters to lie down in.
Judging the Student Film Festival
In entry #9, Transylvanian villagers tell the resident monsters
to hide. Then they sell silver bullets, pointy stakes and torches
to the gullible at inflated prices.
When the frustrated hunters leave, the monsters
and the merchants divide up the money, shake hands
and wait for the next bunch of suckers.
As a satire about government collusion with rogue regimes,
I wish Dracula didn’t resemble some Romanov pretender
in the lobby of a fleabag hotel.
Real monsters are always well turned out. They wear
elaborate uniforms with medals they awarded themselves.
They ride in fancy cars surrounded by henchmen.
I’m halfway home when I see one of my students, so I
pull over. Before I can say, “Gretchen. C’mon. It’s late.
I’ll . . .” she’s bolted.
Monsters everywhere. Zimbabwe and Uzbekistan. Belarus
and Laos. And now here in Pasadena, a stranger in a dark car:
exactly what Gretchen’s mother warned her about.