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From promoting poetry, to promoting the poet, Oceantics concludes this three-part series with the idea of life itself as poetry. The free verse I’m sharing with you here took root a few weeks ago in my local shopping mall before the stores opened. I dedicate it to all the hard-working retail sales associates who receive little thanks, too few or lousy hours, poor pay, and dream, as I did when I put in those years, of something bigger.

The following poem contains adult content. Reader discretion is advised.

♥ ♥ ♥

Lulu, Lemme Lie Down

At the end of an eight-hour shift of
pounding techno-club, selling double
zero tank tops and short shorts to
alumni of Hello Kitty U, I figured
I was due me a stiff dose of the blues
and so I hauled my weary tight ass
down to the Yellow Gator in the poor
side of town and ordered triple shots
from Mick the barman who’d got me
through a few rough nights and prob’ly
would again if I let him. I gave him my
best come-on-but-not-really smile, then
stuffed a twenty in the tip jar when he
turned away—I ain’t no comp whore.

I stared at those drinks like they
was eyeballs staring back until
the back of my throat tickled
and I thought, hell, it’s just booze!

My first shot, I called Desolation. Slam!
The slow hot sting snaked through me
good. Shot number two, Resignation,
yeah! Bile pushed back, acrid, acrimonious,
thankless infantry, our bladders of gall.
However much poison it took to kill off
the rats and stifle the meek chorus with
their matching puce gowns and V-collars,
I’d take it. V stands for vile, don’t you know?

I was reaching for the third drink when
a hand clamped my arm, and a flash
brighter than halogen and laser twisty-
tied together in a tunnel at midnight
swallowed, knocked me back.

How long I was out, I dunno, no one
will tell me, but it weren’t no blackout,
that tumble. His arms were as real
and muscled-tender as the ones my
daddy wrapped me in before the hurts
I’d come back to fix got wind that I’d
arrived, and his kisses—well, I don’t
care how jack-dandy you think you are
between the sheets, this man raised
me up and turned me inside out of
myself and back for what felt like a
month of holy thundering Sundays,
and when we’d finished making our
acquaintance, he said to me the
only thing I’ll share with you here:

Lulu, lemme lie down, I think I’ve
pulled something. And with that
he held up a thorn, roughly the
size and shape of a telephone
pole, or a cross—you won’t be
needing this anymore—and he
tossed it, smooth as glass,
into the Tallahatchie.

© Elaine Stirling, 2012