Scenes from a Spiteful Business

This poem won First place in 2-Day Poem Contest 2003

I. Pressure


start in midair, say, on a plane

the change in your ears as you descend–the pressure–is the

weight of the air      it is laid out in the barometric formula, which is


unerring, and explains, too, the freezing drizzle

that pelts the taxi's windows on the drive from the airport, the cabby

lamenting the goal-line fumble

that cost his team a spot in the final–they just couldn't

handle the pressure–you in the backseat, shivering, sour-breathed and


wishing you'd brought an umbrella, whispering under your breath,

just drive, just shut up and drive


II. Force


it was once called the badger game      a man would meet a stranger in a


shop and be offered an envelope of photographs–the man and a woman,

a woman and the man–this man's wife never need know, if certain timely

payments were made      your client wants nothing but an end, wishes to

pretend it's as tidy as cutting in on a couple dancing a saraband in Kario or


other pulsing city      the man in question–his haircut and the knot in his

tie both

too tight–says, there is no evidence to support that claim      treats you

like you're the boy who always spoils it for others but his eyes,

litmus blue ruins, confess he is a man who has lain in the wrong bed

for too      long the sheets still warm to the husband's palm


III. Release


you spend most of your work hours slouched in your car      a thermos of


a bottle to piss in, a camera on the passenger seat      your boredom is


unlike your kitchen faucet, which complains in irregular beats

the ice in your glass does not work by inertia, it reaches out cold tendrils


gather in the whiskey's heat, much as the mind collects memories      (ice is


truest archive of the past–consider the soot and seeds at the heart of


glaciers–we cannot beguile ice)      the bartender places a fresh tumbler in

front of you, looks at the man in the corner the      ice

clicks against your teeth

you left your offering on his table      later he will insist

     he was only seeking shelter