Sunday, February 13, 2011

Guest Poet: Thomas Michael McDade

Rattle Wishes

When I got the measly unemployment checks rolling
off a Rhode Island lace mill job, life still failed
to go down like a gourmet dessert but at least
I could manage an occasional Hostess Cupcake fix.
My sixteen bucks a week room was a dandy retreat
after I screwed higher bare wattage into the ceiling.
My Italian portable typewriter often jammed
but it didn’t bother me like it would have Kerouac.
Around the corner was an A & P good for day old
bread, cheese and bologna ends.
A transistor radio supplied Jean Shepherd talk at night.
Hours at the library time traveling via old microfilm
occupied me until the short subject was shown
for the benefit of downtown brown-baggers.
Sherwood Anderson’s “I’m a Fool”
screened once instead of the usual travel fare.
I assured myself that title did not apply to me.
Hell, I did tend to some crucial matters along
that stretch, chased Dos Passo’s U.S.A and Hugo’s
Les Miserables off my reading list.
Part of my routine had me nursing cola at the Duchess
while listening to old guys discuss the daily number that would
arrive by runner one by one until three digits sealed fates.
Scribbling down their stories, I considered first hand
material, cozying up to one of them to bet a number
or two but I stuck with anonymity and the weekly State Lottery
that wasn’t much of a narrative except the twice it balked
at dropping me off on Easy Street by a crooked digit.
If I was too tired to walk to my room, there was a bus driver
who never questioned my transfers that did not apply.
The checks ran their course just as the landlady
who signed the rent receipt with an “X” offered me
an eighteen dollar room complete with easy chair.
I turned it down but found hope --
a three day Manpower job
at a corporate headquarters that was moving.
Muscles as mushy as fresh cupcakes,
desks and filing cabinets took their toll.
My bones recalled their days of ease,
wished I were dead so they could rattle
off “hack” and “fool” in skeleton time.


Until ovarian cancer took out the lien,
Fran worked Accounts Payable
at a furniture factory where desks
and credenzas for kings
and sheiks were produced.
The costly woodwork was illusionary,
shrewdly veneered particle board.
She’d battled all the distractions from
the owner’s wife bitching
that computers were nothing but shit
to the son who ran marathons bragging
that “hitting the wall” was nonsense.
Sometimes Fran took refuge
staring out a window at the barely
visible Thunder Lounge sign
wishing for a liquid lunch unlike the one
pain and discomfort later would provide.
Boring her stepdaughter Lisa with aged
trial balances, computer check printing quirks
and death over highballs at the Thunder,
Fran suddenly announced mid-sentence
that she’d sworn off chemo and radiation.
Adjusting her burgundy scarf covered
with gold Eiffel Towers to better
hide her baldness, she insisted Lisa
drive her to the factory to inform
everyone she was ready to die.
Many were able to pretend
Fran was neither ghost nor zombie.
Some diverted themselves admiring her
Eiffel scarf and the marathoner nodded
when Lisa asked if it were true
there was a full-time nurse now.
She applied on the spot for a job
always begging due to injuries
and was hired glassy eyes and all.
Whisking Fran out past the noisy
saws and sanders to bear witness,
she was crazy to tell the manager
at McDonald’s to shove it.

© Thomas Michael McDade 2011

Thomas Michael McDade graduated from Fairfield University. He and his wife live in Monroe, CT. He served two hitches in the U.S. Navy, and is a computer programmer. Some of his work has appeared in Zouch Magazine, Angelic Dynamo, Sunken Lines, and Leaf Garden among other venues, including The Web Poetry Corner.


  1. I'm no poet but these were easy to read. I liked their rhythms and plots. Fine work. And thanks for your service, Sailor.

  2. I loved these narrative poems.


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