Alan CatlinAlan Catlin has retired from the Bar Wars after thirty four years working in his unchosen profession as a barman in various establishments in the capital district including twenty five years at the Washington Tavern.  He has published well over sixty chapbooks and full length books of both prose and poetry. Some of his more recent books are “Near Death in the Afternoon on Becker Street”, “Self Portrait as the Artist Afraid of His Self-Portrait” both from March Street Press and “Drunk and Disorderly” a selected poems from Pavement Saw Press.  Forthcoming a book of four related chapbooks of poetry to be called “Alien Nation” from March Street Press. To date he has received twenty Pushcart Prize nominations, seventeen in poetry and three in prose, but has never won one, which must be some kind of record for futility.

POEMS

 

ON THE DESERT PLAIN OF DEAD CARS

This post-apocalyptic nightmare
is of a ravaged parking lot for late
model, made in America, cars,
stripped of every useable part,
now a streamlined air-conditioned
customized shelter for monitor
lizards, poisonous snakes, rare
breeds of genetically modified
reptile-beasts, mad iguana, giant
insects, birds of prey, anything
alive that survives these burning
oil fields, set on fire in a last
ditch, raze-the-earth as we go,
effort to remind conquering
heroes that follow the dead
through here, that hell is a place
on earth and it looks exactly like this.

 

HE WORE A BRAND NEW

Death from Above
t-shirt with soiled
in the car repair
trenches to prove he
was way beyond
Natural laws-none
of which applied
to him except maybe
an obvious section 8-
the only laws-articles-
outside the service
that applied to him
were in the police
blotter published in
the Times Union-
each arrest record
running roughly two
weeks behind the crime-
the next offense waiting
to catch up with
the last just like
those double cuervos
skimmed with lighter
fluid he was trying
to ignite with a Bic
lighter-an effort doomed
to failure it seemed but
that didn’t stop him
from trying or the barman
from feeding him shooters-
his money down on
the bar sd. Death from
Above would burn his
beard before his tongue-
delivering a new kind
of sermon on the mount
from behind a burning bush-
The Apocalypse According
to the Special Forces

 

THE ARTIST’S MODEL

All that was left in her mouth was
the jagged stump of a tooth that gave her
the appearance of a demented wicked
witch of the West through the looking
glass and re-imagined as a kind of red queen
with a gold plate for her tooth – an ornament
that gave her face a special kind of radiance
that models had for H. Bosch feast days
around the time the wine ran out an the orgy began.

 

SELF PORTRAIT WITH PALM READER

I have never seen a hand
such as this one
Inside you must be deep
psychic scars
You will know tragedy
in your life
It will be a short life
You certainly will not live
past thirty
You have the fingers of an artist
but Art fails you
Your life line would have been
strong but the scar in
the shape of a bent cross
betrays you
Avoid strong drink, high places,
bodies of water with fast currents,
anything at all that will increase
the risk of accidental death
Above all: never marry
Perhaps, Fate will be kinder
to you than I can be

 

THE WHITE LADY

She didn’t look the part
of the wrong choice in
a cosmic game of The Price
Is Right, in fact her face
was something easily
imagined inside a glossy
magazine or attached to
a flawless body in a
freshly pressed summer
dress brought home for
the folks to see.
She sat quietly smoking
Virginia Slims, blows long,
wide smoke rings poking
holes dead center in the
closest one to her face
with an index finger, stares
straight through the nearest
guy on a bar stool, says,
“For an extra double sawbuck
I can talk dirty too, all you
need to do is ask.”

 

BLACK AND BLUE

“Mescal,” She says,
“Neat. Hold the worm.
That’s a joke someone
like you wouldn’t get.”
Stands, unsmiling, wild
eyes dying suns burning
holes in the back bar
mirror. “Last man kept
me waiting for something
I needed this bad ended
up face down in a ditch
sucking mud instead of air.
Where’s my cactus juice?”
In the desert staked
between two rocks,
totally exposed to
the sun and fire ants
with all the other men
of her life who had taken
turns beating her black
and blue, I think, but
say instead,”Not in this
bar, sweetheart.”
“That wasn’t funny,
Mr. Barman soon to be
Mr. Deadman.”
“Wasn’t meant to be.”
“Too bad for you.”
She says, staring deepi
inside by pale, hard eyes;
a strange Mexican stand-off
inside, on an otherwise
cold and clear late winter
night.

 

OLD FRIENDS

I’m supposed
to know him
we’re supposed
to have gone
back all the
way to soemthing
like the Stone
Ages together
we were such
good friends
we had matching
tattoos on our
arms when we
were kids
the whole nine
yards
I was supposed
to go, “Oh yeah
you’re—-”
and he was
supposed to go
“Yeah, ain’t that
the truth—–”
And I was supposed
to like give him
50 big ones on loan
or something
except I thought
he reminded me
of some guy who
already owed me 20
which kind of
reminded him
I looked like
some other guy
who tended bar
somewheres else

 

CLOWNS

Maybe it was
because they were
in college that
they thought
they knew all
there was
to know
Tried out a few
tough guy acts
on my head
just to see if
I might be
impressed
Bit off a
mouth full
of beer glass
and started
chewing
smiling all
the while
as if I should
be horrified
or something
I said, “I knew
guys as smart
as you two clowns
once  They liked
to eat them glasses
too  They’ve got
plastic stomachs
now and they ain’t
allowed to shit but
they’re still a whole
hell of a lot of laughs