At the Dealership

Behind a plexiglass partition,
the finance man winced,
crunching my numbers
See, I was what they
called "a thin-file guy"

Passing the time, the salesman,
twice my age, looked for
common ground with his tattooed,
earring-ed client with anecdotes
of his own salad days,

spent in San Francisco-
"Man, those were different times"-
spent doing different drugs,
chasing different women, romancing one
as "Crystal Blue Persuasion" played on a

Cadillac's speakers, somewhere
near a breezy ocean whose memory
made his head float up like a balloon,
and away from his neck-tied neck;
"That was a great song..."

A few weeks shy of my own 27th birthday,
I only half-listened, as the thought of
slipping $8,000 further in debt, to ensure
I could continue commuting to my retail job,
had me on a mind-altering trip of my own

Portland Strip Club, 2009

On crime dramas or in those
flashing, red-lit montages on
lurid news magazine shows

they always leave out the part
where the girls come on stage,
prior to their introductions

and wipe down their poles
with a few shots of commercial-grade Windex
in preparation for a 3-song set

Graduation Day

On Graduation Day at the
community college student store,

the only unsold greeting cards are sky blue,
depicting fiery shooting stars

They lean against a white placecard
bearing their intended message:

"You'll Make a Difference"

Kendall Square, 2004

None of it is funny;
that fading rose, inked into
your wrist as it rests
on your knee, your hand
holding firm to your Newports

When you've finished making overpriced sandwiches
for bio-tech firm drones, you wait for the bus
and tell the Pakistani popcorn vendor
about your lazy, live-in boyfriend

who's no help in getting
your kids to finish their homework
and I say nothing- can't relate-
instead, I think of you at 15
riding a Blue Line train to Wonderland

with teased hair and urchin friends
making eyes with the Revere boys in big cars
worrying your poor mother to tears
I think of my sister, at home in Pennsylvania,
walking the woods with a kid in a Tool cover band

and I can't laugh- it's no joke
so I stub out my cigarette and get back inside
with my coworkers who will, like me, take
the Red Line home with a shoulder bag and a book
trying to throw the MBA candidates off our retail scent

Chris Middleman is originally from Downingtown, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in several magazines including The New York Quarterly, Zygote in My Coffee, Pemmican, and the Orange Room Review.


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