Monday, April 27, 2015

Joe Barnes


The man in the next lane
gestures for me to pull over.
A broken brake-light?
A balding tire about to blow?

I obey and do the cursory
once-over of the helpless-with-cars.
Everything appears in order.

But there he is, on foot beside me,
pointing to a dent, acquired
God know when or how,
on my driver-side door.

He will repair it, he says.
For a fee, of course. I
wonder at the sheer nerve
of my wandering huckster
trawling marks from the city streets.

He has the patter of a salesman,
the hair of a preacher.
He is ten years younger than I:
not handsome perhaps,
but with a slim mechanic's build
and calculating, teal eyes.
His teeth are long. A small nick mars
his upper-left incisor.

I am middle-aged, middle-class,
a little effeminate as I fuss,
half-heartedly, at his affront.
I have somewhere to be, I lie.

He finds occasion to touch me
twice: once on my upper arm
and, then, when I don't recoil,
more firmly on my lower back.

I yield of course, just as he knew
I would, and un-peel a pair of twenties
to watch him smooth the dent flat
with a ball-peen hammer
and a smudged, faux-chamois cloth.

He drove away. I watched,
a fool and happier for it.
I never saw him again.

The dent lay hidden for a week,
then reemerged one morning,
like desire from flesh,
like regret from memory.
It's still there.

Joe reads "Con Man":

Subscribe to Channel Five-Two for first view of new videos.

Joe confesses: "The incident in the poem happened ten years ago, precisely as I describe. From the beginning, I knew I was being conned. My con man knew I knew I was being conned. There was a sexy complicity to the whole proceedings. The dent? I still haven’t fixed it."

JOE BARNES's poetry has appeared in four anthologies – TimeSlice, The Weight of Addition, Improbable Worlds and The Lineup: Poems on Crime – and in journals such as Bat City Review, Measure, and Illya's Honey. Barnes is also a playwright. He lives in Houston, Texas.

No comments: