Poetry by Joseph Reich

Odessa’s

How long before completely catatonic
before you just lose it from all the unholy
phony-baloney liar hypocrites of existence?
When you lose your whole support system
or never really ever had one to begin with
& finally at last vanish into the matchstick
fable & folklore spirit of condensation?
Well I’m gonna tell you; I’m gonna first
get myself one of those combination platters
& plunk myself down at Odessa’s Diner on
Avenue B & 7th downing blintzes & kielbasa
& stuffed cabbage, while the hustler dope
addict adolescent delinquent keeps on ducking
in & out, splitting, ditching, running in out on
his old man to cop his fix to try & fix all those
feelings of feeling inadequate, consistently lied
to & cheated & manipulated & betrayed & taken
advantage & trying to make sense of all those
mixed-message mangled-mind-dead mixed-up
bullshit & old timer resigned to learning to have
to accept it & looks like his face has been stretched
from Hell to Heaven like some old pale-gray slow-
death blank newsprint tenement which has finally
caught up with him & can no longer pawn or pass
the buck to some secret inadequate art of rationalization
or Freudian recommendation favor owed to him, wheel
& deal blackmail bribe ultimatum of psychotropic medication,
while all that’s left is son’s skeleton & raw nerves & paroxysms
of built-up & buried explosions, carefully planned quips &
contradictions, instant grati/fictitions & confessions &
condemnations, consistent broken promises, addictions,
desertions & abandonments, those exits & entrances! Exits
& entrances! Exits & entrances! Existence a series of ghostly
exits & entrances! Cigarette & coffee wishes, broken record
histrionics, broken mechanical, sad machinations, the broken
tooth women & pretty young Ukrainian waitresses, old eccentric
dramatic homosexuals with their seductive, sarcastic, corncob
comic strip smiles, sitting solitary style at their tables, talking
up a storm, eyes spinning around counter-clockwise going
through the routines & rituals of demonstratively pointing
at menus & probing about side dishes & specials, then settling
for their traditional Greek salad & afternoon cocktail, while
skittering autumnal leaves come tumbling into windswept
doors & secretly settle into the folklore of heavily trampled
floors in cracks & crags & corners below the old
woolen coats huddled on hooks & hangers at last
finding yourself settled in mad karma Nirvana
familiar in the distance and distant with the familiar,
more comfortable within the anonymity of strangers
than the parasitic gossip & rumors of backstabbing,
cookie-cutter, two-faced neighbors holding onto grudges,
soulless, bloodless whose expressions look like they
want to just take hostages & make you just as miserable
those great spacious bathrooms where no one can
ever reach you, get you, find you & finally stop
& take a deep breath & (re)collect your thoughts
& regrets & dignity & self-respect; Batman in his
bat cave with needle & razor & bullets & bible & fear
of intimacy & at risk-behavior, while Wonder Woman
breaks down once again in her discotheque uniform,
rearranging her mask & mascara & roles & becoming
reborn & you return to the trapdoor of your soul taking
your place in front of steamy seasonal windows, seeing
all your past fleeting dramas & trauma, all madmen
& runaways & phantoms & scholars
old Black Panthers & Hell’s Angels
shadow puppets & stick figures
engaged in secret missions
fragmented yet industrious
silhouetted in a whisper
beneath the falling
curtain sputtering
streetlamps of the season
dog people & people who used
to be rich hoteliers & men whose women
all walked out on them, wheeling & dealing
in the park & old farts in their plaid checkered
hats & mothball overcoats looking like they just
got off the boat & pigeons as much a part of this
as any of these restless ghosts lost & lonesome
desperately searching self-destructive souls
looking to cope & put an end to this all
Gyro without the sauce
Mashed potatoes & peas–
“Gimme a straight highball whiskey!”
& Jimmy the speed dealer simply
stealing away in his half-crazed
smack-dab profile of self-denial
with his fate & karma like some
estranged superhero contented
having come to terms never

___________________________________________________
About Joseph Reich

Joseph Reich has been published in a wide variety of eclectic literary journals
both here and abroad, been nominated five times for The Pushcart Prize, and
his most recent books include A Different Sort Of Distance (Skive Magazine
Press), If I Told You To Jump Off The Brooklyn Bridge (Flutter Press), Pain
Diary: Working Methadone & The Life & Times Of The Man Sawed In Half
(Brick Road Poetry Press), Drugstore Sushi (Thunderclap Press), The Derivation
Of Cowboys & Indians (Fomite Press), The Housing Market: a comfortable place
to jump off the end of the world (Fomite Press), The Hole That Runs Through
Utopia (Fomite Press), Taking The Fifth And Running With It: a psychological
guide for the hard of hearing and blind (Broadstone Books), and The Defense
Mechanisms: your survival guide to the fragile mind (Fomite Press).