Only a madman
climbs into the ring with a memory
bobs and weaves
between long shadows and big shoes
of an opponent
unable to make one angry
by coming home late
and forgetting important occasions
or drinking too much
and playing the fool in front of her friends

And just when you believe
the bout's over you're blindsided
by a combination
of the past and present because as cruel
as the world
Is to the living it's always considerate
to the deceased
and as much as you'd like to throw in the towel
you can't because
you love her as much as she loves the memory

A week at the Roosevelt

Was like a day at Disney World
One was never sure what they'd see next

Most towns all cities and even a few dots on the map
Has one or more of these multi-storied structures

Boasting in burn-out neon
Names like the KENNEDY or the CLEVELAND

Buried deep in a part of town as dead
As the man on the marquee and sandwiched

Between alleys where pints are passed and faceless women
Wear out their knees a few dollars at a time

While old men sit in the lobby content in changing
Only the channels on the antique television

At the time of my stay twenty-five years ago
Thirty dollars cash provided residents with one hot plate

Two dirty curtains and at least three wake-up calls
A week usually around midnight

Courtesy of the city police department
Or the local ambulance service

Included at no extra charge were sagging single beds
Dressed in army-issue blankets

Mismatched pillow cases stained sheets and cockroaches
Bold enough to greet you at the door

Each floor had a bathroom at the end of the hall
Always filthy and constantly occupied

By people like Lisa
The woman across the hall

With eyes as dark as a midnight ocean
A stare colder than fifty Russian winters

But always generous with her wine
Until the evening she went in search of Jesus

With a belt on loan from the Viet Nam vet
Who cried for the first time since Khe Sahn

As they rolled her across the well worn carpet
I packed my bag and left the key beside the bed

Without nod or glance I said a silent good-bye
Before disappearing into the night

Like the taillights carrying Lisa
Certain I'd be forgotten just as fast

But his lawn was always perfect

His mind would come and go like the women in his life
Logic was as foreign as a faithful lover
But on a normal day he was as sane as the next psycho
We heard he came from Chicago and a long line of mental illness
But all who would know were committed one way or the other to silence
We weren't surprised the Monday morning the headlines screamed
Claimed God had pissed him in the fourth grade
For a number of reasons he was not ready to reveal.
Immediately the press poked their noses into our windows and doors
Putting us under the light and into print
"He was fucking nuts."
"Time-bomb City."
"But his lawn was always perfect."
"Everyday of the week, especially on Sunday."
"He never liked Sunday, claimed it was a conspiracy."
"He once sent out invitations to his suicide but canceled it when no one showed."
Our fifteen minutes of fame lasted a month
Until his place was leased to two lesbian dwarfs
And the neighborhood returned to normal

Jason Kelly Richards was born in Kentucky in a classic year for Chevolets,
raised in North Carolina during the best decade of music and is currently
planning his escape from Florida because the pay sucks and the humidity
is absurd. His work has appeared in Pearl, The Chiron Review and others
including The Ever-Dancing Muse plus online at ThunderSandwich, Red Booth
Review, AntiMuse, PoetsCanvas, 63Channels, Miller's Pond and forthcoming
at The Indite Circle.

2006 Underground Voices