with sacks of concrete across
the shopping center parking lot,
its iron wheels threaten the asphalt,
already softened by an oppressive sun.
at my truck, i lift each
dusty sack onto the open bed,
causing the leafsprings to creak
and lower proportionately.
across the lot, a man about my age
walks sideways out the barber shop doorway.
in his arms, he carries like a baby
a newly shorn boy of about twelve—
his son, i figure—
who wears thick glasses with a band to hold them,
and drool down his chin.
the boy’s arms and legs jut out awkwardly,
like bent antennae,
purveying a haywire inability
to function and support.
as they cross the asphalt,
the man speaks to the boy,
how nice he looks
with his new haircut,
just as i would my son.
into the passenger side of a parked stationwagon,
the man straps the boy into the seat with
the dexterity of someone who is
repeating the process for the umpteenth time.
almost forgotten in my arms,
i drop another sack of ‘crete
onto the bed of my truck.
a small cloud of dust rises
and the leafsprings creak their protest.
sitting comfortably in
a tubful of steamy water,
sipping a cold beer,
i read my former teacher gerald
locklin’s little red chapbook,
the iceburg theory & other poems.
halfway through, i come across
the poem, “sedation time.”
gerry is having trouble falling
asleep in his hotel room,
so he checks the tv
guide for a movie
“to relax in front of.”
he considers a noir classic
and a supernatural thriller,
but isn’t sold on either.
“his final option is entitled ‘zipperface.’
one star. he doesn’t read the description.
just reaches for the sleeping pills.”
now to most readers,
this is probably just a funny punchline.
but i’m spraying beer out my nose
because i helped write that piece-of-crap movie!
specifically, i was the fourth of six writers,
and can’t believe it was ever released,
even if only on some obscure cable channel.
it had been my first writing job after college.
five grand for a complete rewrite.
the producer condemned my draft
as “dyke bullshit” for its
strong female protagonist.
two writers and multiple drafts later,
the producer had his bondage/slasher script.
the best things i can say about the movie
are that i got paid and had the foresight
to have my name removed from the credits.
because you never know
when some former teacher
you still hope to impress
will run out of prescription drugs.
Mark Barkawitz has earned local and national awards for his fiction, poetry, essay, and screenwriting. His work has appeared in newspapers (L.A. Herald-Examiner, Pasadena Star News & Weekly, Conscience), magazines (University Mag., Simply 4 Pets), literary journals and anthologies (Abraxas, Sojourns, Zyzzyva, Blank Gun Silencer, Fingerprints, Paws & Tales, Sport Literate, Mediphors, Me Three, Illness & Grace-Terror & Transformation), underground ‘zines (Inky Blue, Monkeywire), and is posted on numerous websites (girlswithinsurance.com, broowaha.com, thirstforfire.com, farmhousemagazine.com, voidmagazine.com, chimaeraserials.com, soulscribe.com, common-line.com, censoredpoets.blogspot.com, halvingababy.com). He wrote the screenplay for the feature film, “Turn of the Blade” (NorthStar Ent., ’95), has taught creative writing classes at community college level, and coaches a championship track team of student/athletes. He ran the 2001 L.A. Marathon in 3:44:42. He lives with his wife, has two kids in college, and breeds golden retrievers (Woof Goldens) in Pasadena, CA. www.woofbooks.com