art and commerce

I learned the correlation
between the two
at the age of six
when, having crayoned
through an entire
coloring book, I showed
the results to my father
for his artistic critique

a day later he gave me
a dollar and said
he sold the coloring book
to a lady at work

even so young, my dadís
words struck me
as implausible

why would anyone want
to buy a coloring
book thatís all
ready been colored?

my dad furrowed his
brow and said something
about the womanís son
having been born with
flippers for arms
unable to color his
own coloring books

the explanation was
good enough for me

I rifled through my room
gathering all my old
coloring books and
during a hand cramping
crayola marathon
managed to fill every
blank page therein

I presented the
eight books to my
dad the next night
estimating there was
enough capital represented
in that pile for
at least three G.I. Joes

he returned the next day
citing market saturation
and an increase
of suppliers versus
a decrease in customers

but I figured he just
took the money he made
off my toil and spent
the cash on cheap whiskey

when I read that

Michelangelo had only
nine colors at his
disposal when he
painted the Sistine Chapel

I donít feel so limited
by my hundred and twenty
word vocabulary

they call me Captain Gringo

Charles the incompetent
third shift maintenance man
brought the books to work
in two Reebok shoe boxes

the name of the author
escapes me Ė an obvious
pseudonym given the books
pornographic nature

the twenty nine volumes
were gathered under the
RENEGADE imprint and
chronicled the turn of
the century adventures
of Captain Gringo and
his lusty French sidekick,
Gustave, who during the
course of their south of
the border campaigns
fucked a vast array of
senoritas, sheep,
paraplegics, prairie dogs,
and a guy named Lou

not to be outdone
Captain Gringo with his
nine inch tool also
fucked everything that
walked or crawled or
galloped and what he
didnít fuck he usually
killed with his twin
gatlin guns and often heíd
be called upon to kill
what three pages earlier
he had thoroughly fucked

Charles swore up and
down these books were
classic literature and
before long we were
agreeing with him

men who hadnít picked up
anything meatier than the
Sunday Times devoured the
books at a three a week clip

I found the books to be
hackneyed and obvious
poorly written throughout
but I read them anyway
imagining myself tearing
through the Mexican low
lands, fucking the
Generalís twin daughters,
his wife, their housekeeper,
and the bushy tailed
Pomeranian before going to
town and rampaging through
the populace with my big
dick and blazing guns of fury

and when I glanced about
I noticed my co-workers
also walking with a bit
of a swagger looking for
men to challenge, women
to ravage and stray dogs
to cornhole, and finding
none, returning to their
machines and the dog-eared
paperbacks hidden beneath
their work instructions

twelve Captain Gringos
and not a Gustave among us

Karl Koweski is a 29 year old displaced Chicagoan now living on top of a
mountain in northern Alabama for reasons that involve a woman. Being
partial to cement and culture, the move has not been ideal. His chapbook of
stories, Playthings, is available through www.futuretensebooks.com and a
chapbook of his poems, Internet Killed the Mimeo Star, is available at

© 2004 Underground Voices