Poetry: Selections from Wayne F. Burke


“Holy shit,” I remark, “a lot of
money for soup.” The
glasses-wearing shaven-
head guy behind the
cash register asks “you want
your money back?” “No,
I am just saying—seems a lot.”
The counter-woman arrives
with my soup. “Here—take
your money back,” the guy
says. “I will take the soup,”
I say. The guy hands me
my dollar bills, says “NO YOU
WON’T!” I wad the bills
and throw them at his face:
he stalks around the counter,
barks “GET OUT!”
Stands toe to toe--his egg-head
hovers above my nose. “Get out!
You old fuck!” “OLD? Eat shit!
Counter-Boy!” We exchange insults
concerning each other’s mother.
I call him a “cocksucker.” He follows me
to the door: “Get off my back!” I bark.
At the exit he gives me a shove and
I hit the deck: get up, incensed; run into
the door, scream “OUTSIDE!”
It has been a long time since I have felt
enraged. A voice escapes my throat that
is not mine: “GET THE FUCK OUT HERE!”
The guy says cops are on the way. So
what? I wait outside for him; he looks out,
retreats; lucky for him, and for me too,
I guess. I would have beat the prick or
else been beaten—did not matter which,
to me.


A fat girl standing in the
doorway of WALGREENS
“can you buy me something?
I have not eaten all day.”
She follows me inside.
Tells me her name, “Jen.”
“What’s yours?”
“Yeah. Duane.”
In the candy aisle she plucks a bag of
Peanut Butter M & M’s off a shelf, on
sale 2 for 8 dollars.
“Can I have two?”
She scoots down the center aisle
and around a corner:
returns with a pint of ice cream.
On the way to check-out I notice
she has three bags of candy and
I tell her put one back.
At check-out she has something
to say to everyone.
Asks a woman why she, the
woman, is buying so many
diapers. Compliments another
on her attire. At the register
she introduces me to the
cashier: “This is Duane, he is
helping me, I have not eaten
all day.” The cashier has polished
nails; she and Jen
have a lot to say to one another
about fingernails. Finally,
I get to pay. Outside the store
she calls “thank you” and
I grunt “OK,” not
begrudging her the food
but hoping she does not make
a habit of asking.

Air Force

Outside of the CNS Pharmacy
some guy walks up to me
says “Air Force, unit bla bla bla, Pensacola, Florida.”
He offers to shake but I am not buying
whatever this Gomer is selling.
“Locked my keys in my car,” he says, “can you
give me a lift to my hotel? I will pay you
twenty dollars.”
Skinny with a crew-cut, overly-intense stare behind
thick glasses.
“Sure, hop in.”
He sits. “Ever been in the military?”
“No. Shit on that.”
He jerks upright in his seat: “What is the matter? Don’t
you love your country?”
I side glance him as I increase speed.
“Sure I do. Just do not like anyone telling me
what to do.”
“I have been in eight years. Best eight years of my life.
Let me out here.”
I pull over and he troops out…
Never did give me the twenty.

A log-jam at the EXIT
of the supermarket:
an elderly couple doddering
in the doorway…
A woman with cart load ahead of
me: “What are they doing?” she
demands. “Plow into them,” I say.
“No, I won’t.”
A woman behind says “they
do not give a shit about
The white-haired codger
tugs on his missus’ sleeve as
they move, slow as cold
The woman ahead gives me
a “look,” eyes above her
black mask.
I feel like kicking her
in the ass. “They are old,” I say, but
neither woman, front or back
gives a shit
about that.

Wayne F. Burke's poetry has been widely published online and in print (including A Thin Slice of Anxiety). He is author of eight published full-length poetry collections--most recently Black SummerSpartan Press 2021. He lives in a state of irresolution in Vermont (USA).


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