from
THE PRISON POEMS OF KENNETH LAY


Sean Casey

8.
 
Each time I make like
A poet to pen a verse,
An orgy of clichés
Tries to lure me into
Its worn, comfortable folds.
 
“C’mon, stud,” they say.
“You’ve never made it with
Golden haired beauties before.”
 
They have a point. I haven’t.
 
I’ve got the imagination of
A CPA on cough syrup.
 
My words blur
Like ball point tattoos
Across atrophied arms.
 
More and more
 
I’m tempted by
Readymade eloquence.
 
My life’s few intimacies
Have been regrettable, arrhythmic, stinky.
 
They don’t make clichés for guys like me.
 
Cliché takes the dull and
Dolls it up—
My lot’s beyond gussying.
 
Life is nothing if
Not unremarkable.
 
The unremarkable
Has not
Unremarkable depths.
 
When I make like a poet
To pen a verse, I
Fend off offers of an easy lay.

“Sorry,” I demur.
“I shall bugger reality as it lies.
 
“I will make a world
Without prophylaxis.
 
“I cannot make out
Contours of this disappointment
With a condom on each finger.”
 
 
 
 
9.
 
Face it, Lay:
You’ve got acne.
 
It scores the forehead—
A toddler’s violent watercolor,
An avant-garde bingo card.
 
Would that I attended
These pustules
With astringent.
 
I am without toiletry.
 
Scorn for
Skin care products
Stung more than any boil.
 
Even an epidermis
Moisturized and
Fortified against the ultraviolet
Was insufficient armor.
 
The blows
Of the pockmarked
Were many and indelicate.
 
If character
Had been mine to burn
I’d have protested.
 
I’d have held a vigil
For the repose of exfoliation.
 
Alas, epidermal neglect
Sets off sirens
Nowhere, save my own heart.
 
Free man,
Recycle your newspaper.
 
Press a blind man’s hands
To my physiognomy
And read the truth:
 
The content of my character
Is the complexion of my skin.
 
No man dare escape prison,
But care for one’s
Largest organ may pack
Its German creams and rinses
And waltz.
 
 
 
 
10.
 
Tony Mangento’s real crime
Is not aggravated assault, breaking and entering,
But the slow and painful robbery
Of my sense of smell
With the cruel bouquet of his body’s odors.

The acne across his back?
It looks like a colony of barnacles
Attached to the underside of a whale.