A 2016 Pushcart nominee, Mike Jurkovic‘s poetry and musical criticism have appeared in over 400 plus magazines and periodicals but have generated no reportable income. Full-length collections and chapbooks include smitten by harpies & shiny banjo catfish (Lion Autumn Press, 2016), Eve’s Venom (Post Traumatic Press, 2014), and Purgatory Road (Pudding House Press, 2010). His work has appeared in anthologies WaterWrites & Riverine (Codhill Press, 2009, 2007) and Will Work For Peace (Zeropanik, 1999).
I may not be the brightest bulb
but I know it’s a shell game
which, by high definition, is a con we should
all be used to and on the orange alert for
given the nature of politics. Given our propensity
for swindle. Our eagerness to take
each other to the cleaners and turn
the same trick over n over
in the name of democracy. Freedom,
The intentional perversity of truth.
A circumnavigation of fact. Fiction.
And the pursuit of happiness.
I mean what’s more sleight of hand than voting?
Like Ancient Greece. Like old New York.
Sharps play the urban decay. Stoke the diaspora.
Stalk the unwashed and un-imagined.
Voting. Fey! It’s a gesture at most.
Nothing conclusive. A tally the big boys ignore
cos they know better or at least they say they do
and we believe. Bereft of higher ground,
they meet our standards. Exceed expectations.
Give birth to new devils. Say our voice matters
then punch mute.
What’s it gonna take, huh? How much of how little
do you want them to divide? Despoil? Maraud and plunder?
There’s gotta be a breaking point. Everyone has one and
thus too, each mob. Must we resign to camps and
shit in dark holes? Our children and elders
their soldiers and whores,
pushing their product down the old Silk Road.
Over the grand peaks we once called our own
until they blew them up for coal and passage.
And we marched in line. Our burden, their trade.
I never did get back to Topeka.
What was the point? There was bullshit
in every direction. Just like here.
Up n down. Forward, back.
Horizon to horizon. Moon to moon
n Grandma’s down eight fingers n falling
into her chili n chips as Pop Pop swears at Quick Draw
and little Lena gets off the bus n walks into
the dim lit, dimwit, gimlet, gin house that
only the brave defy. Which is why I’m here.
Hiding behind happy hour. My religion lost
and my faith failing fast. Each dark minute
hauling itself forward. Towards the water.
Towards the morsel. Towards the dead legends
I call my own and number myself
among. We jump off in droves.
The chasm yawning. The darkness rushing by.
The mothballed freighters
falling twice as fast.
Just grow soldiers they say,
reminding me a lot of what I heard
back in Topeka. Where prairie winds
blow rust and water mains burst
just like that. Just like everywhere else
neglected by its people. Dismissed as a political problem
when, in fact, it’s a culture. A question of folklore
and the lack thereof. No present. No past.
No holds barred when it comes to demise
and the dollars it makes. Squalor. Contempt.
A breed I’ve indebted myself to. A ruined lineage.
Just like Topeka.
I have studied
the wisdom of rot
The process of decay
overwhelming. Animal, vegetable,
matters not. Frondescence dies.
Policy and prudence
waiting for the last man
to fall. The woman to lapse.
And what if that destiny
falls on your shoulders?
What you gonna do then, boyo?
Cry for Mommy?
Cry for God?
Cry for the idiot king
to redeem you? From what?
Your tireless mathematics
and body count? Win. Lose.
It’s all been a draw.
It’s all been risky business.
The adventure of the wheel. A cold shot
in the dark.