4 Poems by Peter Mladinic

Punk Noir Magazine

1-

Scars

I could see the scars on her neck

near her throat, and at the top

of her chest when she wore

a blouse with the collar open.

They were flecks, streaks

that stood out in brightness

in contrast to the dark of her skin.

They were varied in size, some

were jagged.  They were not easy

to look at.  When I was with her

and my eyes fell on the scars

I looked away,

not wanting her to think I was staring.

She got them in the course of one

night, or day

when the creep she was living with

or had been living with 

attacked her with a knife,

almost, I think, slitting her throat.

She had children.

I’d like to think they weren’t present

when this human monster

of a husband or maybe only 

a boyfriend, lost control,

assuming he ever had control.

How could she have ever gotten

involved with this guy?

Maybe when she met him

he was different.  Maybe

she worked at a desk

in an insurance office and one day

a florist’s delivery driver came in

and up to her desk with a dozen

red roses.

All I can think of now is the blood

she lost from that attack.

She was lucky to be alive.

She was a student

in my freshman lit class,

and at first I sympathized 

with her plight.  She needed

extra time to type at the keyboard.

2-

Raymond

My mother’s funeral at Our Lady of Refuge

started with a jimmied lock, a break in.

John O’ Dwyer shot her, then me, then,

the gun barrel under his chin,

took his own life, twenty-three years ago.

I hovered between life and death.

Today, 1958, Jenna spoons a dollop 

of stuffing on her plate and mashes it with a fork.  

She’s my cousin Ethel’s girl.

A begonia suns on a fire escape.

Mint green walls hold our shadows.

My mother’s funeral started in a bar

off the Concourse.  Glen Miller

on the juke, a man and a woman

slow danced to “At Last.”

Another night the man, short, stocky,

sporting a polka dot pocket handkerchief,

leaned and shook my hand.

NYPD but not in uniform, Johnny’s

a detective, Mother said.

Seated next to me, my wife, Grace,

blonde, obese.  At this Easter table

five children see a tall man with a long

face, a carnation in his lapel.

Grace passes me a bowl of cranberries.

I slice turkey, sip beer from a tall glass.

Downhill a half mile, the Concourse

is quiet.  Closed on Sundays,

the shoe outlet that was the Top Club:

Mother stepped from the Ladies.

At the bar O’ Dwyer asked,

Can I buy you a drink?

3-

Richard Pryor

I sat way up in the balcony.

In the spotlight on stage,

a slim twenty something:

confident in his hands,  

his eyes roving the orchestra, 

the tiered balcony, 

Richard Pryor cracking jokes rapid fire:

mimicry, insane laughter

rising like a wave, carrying us,

he was there, the one, the me-ness

of pay-attention, effortless,

vivid. The short Afro, thin tie,

hands going to the tie knot.  Then,

spin the time dial ahead

forty years: his darkness,

his wheelchair, head tilted

sideways, eyes staring

where no one else was looking,

a wheelchair’s blanket over

his legs. Are you cold?

4-

Eleven Roses

The eleven roses and the twelfth is you

jingle,

checks in the sport coat of Pinky Lee,

a mumble-jumble

of high feelings

in the evangelist’s pompadour,

we were ornate

as a Faberge egg under glass,

happy as perch in the Hook River.

Daydreams,

gum balls, Caladryl

cured our ills.

Whether water skiing

or nursing a scotch & milk, all of us

kept Hoover’s Masters of Deceit

bookmarked

for bedtime reading.

It was mind boggling.

“Take that,”

said Pete the grocer.

We shot marbles.

We emulated mobster Frank Costello,

desired Knots Landing’s

Abby Cunningham.

“Calypso Boogie”

blared in

“the penny candy store beyond the el.”

We sipped

white port and lemon juice

and found eggs in a robins’ nest.

Peter Mladinic’s poems have recently appeared in Neologism, the Mark, the Magnolia Review, Home Planet News, Ariel Chart and other online journals.  He lives, with six dogs, in Hobbs, New Mexico.