Danny Rendleman (M.F.A., Goddard C) teaches writing at the University of Michigan—Flint. He is the author of six books of poetry, the latest, The MiddleWest, to be published this spring by Ridgeway Press. His work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Field, Epoch, Rolling Stone, and others.
Mom & Pop Beer & Wine
We brought new meaning to the idea of sullen—
or thought as much, merely re-inventing
15-year-old incommunicado with our slung hips,
pointed shoes, our gravity knives
and sneering desire.
What were those rum-soaked cigars we all affected?
After drinking vanilla rootbeers
at Eastside Drugs and trying to cop a feel
off Sherry, who worked there—
Dino's girl—since he wasn't around,
knowing she liked the attention
of leather boys with mysterious scars, liking a change
from her football fuck-off.
How many thunderstorm afternoons
hanging out at the Mom & Pop Beer & Wine, Bronskis',
waiting for Big Bess to amble by,
buy us a six-pack or some sloe gin.
So I'm sitting here at my desk, old
Steely Dan on the stereo,
and I'm looking out to brilliant
fire orange trees I never noticed before,
trying to think of the name of
those cigars, going through the alphabet.
And it won't come, though everything
else is like yesterday, lights arcing off my Chevy,
the way oil pools on water, the taste of Stroh's beer,
how those sweet shoes felt on, the smell inside the store,
a mix of candy and magazines,
ammonia, Mom & Pop secretly liking us,
I think, though gruff, leery, growing alike,
salt and pepper shakers, gray and aproned,
a picture of their dead son over the meat case—
Rodney the asshole, killed in peacetime Korea,
shot by his drunken slope girlfriend,
but a hero to his folks, unlike us hoodlums.
One night all of us lay down on somebody's lawn, put our heads
on each other's stomachs—
Ray, Junior, Albert, Kaz and me—
and made noises. Do you believe it? I think we were
embarrassed, so we lit our cigars and told lies
about how much we were getting. Bless us,
our skinny little bad asses,
and our poor folks: the Moms & Pops
of us crooks. Yes, of course,
the cigars were called Crooks.
Sweet and cheap and unholy and crooked,
but redolent of summer nights.
The perfect smoke.
1. LITHO IN U.S.A.
Do a detail
of a larger work.
Copyright the idea.
Do it again.
Do it to death.
Begin small with texture of aspen leaves.
Go with space to define edge.
Be cavalier with strokes.
Dot with butter.
4. CATTLEMARKER GRAPHITE
Unroll the hand-laid
across two straight-back chairs.
Light some logs.
Bank it. Make it last.
Call in the dog.
Turn out the lights.
Think on it.
In the morning fix some eggs.
See what developed. Admire the fire.
Throw in the paper.
Toss in the dog.
5. STONES. BOWL. TIME OF DAY.
Write postcards to friends,
move a stone.
Age. Sell. Move a stone back.
Wait for reply.
Throw the cloth into a corner.
Imagine who would wear such a thing.
Imagine a name.
Put on the name.
Spell it wrong.
7. John's conté crayon underfoot.
Eat the royalty check. Tell no one.
Mention the arsonist's name
to the gallery owner and
vice versa. Voila!