Ryan Quinn Flanagan
Mouths to Feed
He had only started working at the full-serve
two weeks previous.
He landed the gig through his parole officer
and though the job wasn’t much
it was more than he had.
And it was summer and the oil cartels
were gouging a little less for some reason
so the cars were lined up in long rows
their gas caps removed, each tank hungry
for the nozzle;
many mouths to feed
and he pretended they were all his children
because he had no children
or woman either;
that made things bearable, filling all those tanks
as though they were his children
and depended on him.
When he was finished he wiped his hands with
a crusty blue rag, clocking out before
the short walk home.
His tired feet throbbing in his shoes
like someone else’s stinking
Bullets seem a reason to double over
in the golden business of sun
umbrella man twirling clockwise
out of puddles of
and only your smile
I feel the sweat of the angels
so soft on my bone…
Nothing is perfect.
I won’t be long, said Hoffa
as he went for milk.
And they asked me about the space program
Business was slow.
The door-to-door salesman could not sell anything
as the door had not yet been invented
and it was hard to set primordial soup up
on a payment plan.
And there was no love to be had, no anything.
So the door-to-door salesman stood very still
in the darkness.
Waiting for the doors to arrive.
On the drive south
we pass many men along the side
of the interstate.
Chained together in pink jumpsuits
clearing the gullies and shoulder of debris.
A man in uniform standing behind them
with a shotgun.
In 90 degree heat
that seems to cook everything
like a Michelin star chef
no one can see.
The post office is one, but I doubt
that is what this fearmonger
on the television is talking about
every evening, his hands waving wildly
warning about this and that
his mouth never tiring as though
he has been in a pie eating contest
for 72 centuries;
many delivery systems, FedEx
and the telephone and homing pigeons
and barbershop quartets
who will sing “Baby Got Back”
to a loggerhead sea turtle
if the money is
The plane crashed into the mountain
and it was reported that there were no survivors
which made the mountain angry
because it had survived, largely unscathed,
but no one seemed to care