Two Poems

Ping Pang Pong

On Sundays
Uncles cared for me
while Mom attended
A.A. meetings
across town.

Across the living room
carpet, diaper-lopsided
and tow-headed, I waddled
toward that box that sucks
my attention like you suck
gin and tonics on Sunday
mornings in Georgia.

Half my Uncles half raised me:
Jim-Jim, Tom-Tom, Bobby:
Ping Pang Pong, the emperor’s
advisors and I the emperor.

Los Angeles vs. San Francisco
on the box. On the couch
three washed up whales
reaching for neon
orange chips, a moustache
full of suds and smoke, a
pillow, a pink pillow.

They gave me their bottles
to put in the trash. In the kitchen
I sipped these
booby-trapped empties—
Budweisers with butts at
the bottom—wailing and wiping
away my cinder-ash moustache,
while they laughed and came to
my rescue, amazed
that the emperor—“Ten months
old!”—had tasted what they
call pleasure.

Jim-Jim, Tom-Tom, Bobby
taught me to ride a bike, to
roll a smoke, the War
of 1812, the ins and outs
and ins again, to love,
to love by simply being there
to teach me how to catch
by throwing a pillow, a pink
pillow, square into my
circle head.

Sunday morning,
I sit on the couch
sipping bottles of beer
while you
sip gin and tonics somewhere
in Georgia. Your letter open
beside my empties,
asking that mom
and I, the emperor,
release you from child-support
payments you never paid.

I’ve read it a dozen times,
and thank you for spending
the forty-two
cents on postage, and for
signing your full name.
But these beers cost money,
Mike. Those diapers cost her
money. So raise your glass to
the men who raised me:
Jim-Jim, Tom-Tom, Bobby,
Ping Pang Pong.


The Real Chris H.

Let him eat a sausage.
See how long it takes him to accept it
from your outstretched hand.
Watch him eat. Let the sauce
smear over his cheeks, coalescing
in the corners of his mouth,
where it will stay for the remainder
of the afternoon.

Meet his parents:
a father obsessed with fishing—“two
flatheads and a cod, both over seventy
a mother who clucks her tongue at the
television set, while Chris stands
beside the refrigerator,
wide-eyed under his sunglasses.

At the park, tell him: “Wipe your mouth,”
and watch his big paw plop against his face
as if it were numb.
Say, “Chris, wipe your mouth,”
and watch a rubber ball arc overhead.
He runs toward the lake,
half-eaten sausage in hand,
and pushes up to his neck in murk.
Watch the ball float away from him.
Watch him turn to you like the child
who finds himself at the top of a tree
unsure how he got there,
unable to get down.

Now help him undress.
Tell him: “Raise your hands, Chris,”
and peel the wet cotton off his flab
a sheath of skin
no longer of use to anybody.
White as a snowman,
sauce around his smile,
you are his best friend, his confidant,
his crush. He has told you he loves you.
“You are pretty as Beiber,” he says.
Look at him,
think: “Same light in his eyes
I’ve seen in the bathroom mirror.”
“That,” you think, “is the real Chris H.”
Be his napkin,
wipe his face. Say, “It’s alright, Chris.
You’re alright. You haven’t done
anything wrong.”


The above collage was created by the Chicago-born artist, Michael Tunk. All of Tunk’s collages are cut with an x-acto blade. No scissors. No photoshop. See more of his work HERE.


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