Poems of Place & Displacement

The Regulars

Florida backwater sloshes
when she hot-whiskey-whispers:
just get me to a truck stop, and I will hitchhike

After your shift, Lisa gets you
slap-happy drunk, takes you
slumming-- across MLK Boulevard, the line
between down-on-luck and luckless, into narrow
bars with duct-taped jukeboxes
wailing, jukeboxes shrilling, jukeboxes
angry and lonesome and twitching
with static. Past sloe-eyed girls
with hard eyeliner and stiff hair, men
raising their heads from
peanuts and beer dregs to sniff
your tinny giggle.

Lisa has a man on her arm that night, then months
until Fritz, pale Army sergeant, stiff
and silent while baseball wavers on the TV.
Fritz never tips, but lives in a penthouse
up the street. Fritz-- the furthest
thing from Florida, all electric
fences and electric eyes, his own
pale eyes lashless.

A blow job cost twenty, anything else is extra.

With the ten-dollar deposit, she orders
two shots,
change for the jukebox.

What are you doing? you hiss.
She cocks her head, ringlets diffusing
the dim light. Shut up and pour.

You pour thick amber light,
Lithuanian whiskey that stings
of cedar and cloves, tasting
only the sticky old door flapping
in her wake.

Photo Credit: US National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration


Copyright 2007,  Shelley Puhak

Shelley Puhak's poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly ReviewNebraska Review, New Delta Review, Ontario Review, and Third Coast.  Her first book manuscript, "Stalin in Aruba," was selected as a finalist in the Stevens Poetry Manuscript Competition and the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize. She is a 2004 graduate of the Low-Residency MFA program at the University of New Orleans.

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