Poems Niederngasse Issue 84 - January 2008

A Joseph Lisowski Special Feature

An excerpt of eight poems from the collection
Stashu in Love

Cuttin' A Lucky Break

I walk in the Hob Nob,
Figurin' if Eddie's behind the bar
I can drink ona cuff.
He ain't.  Big Bertha is,
an' I know she wouldn't piss on me
if I was on fire.  Damn.

I'm about to leave when I spot
Steel City Steve curled ina corner booth,
bottle of Wild Turkey an' a shot glass.
I can tell he's pourin' an' ain't countin'.

"What's you workin' on, Steve?" I says.
"Regrets.  Lotsa regrets," he mumbles an' pours.
Then he nudges the glass towards me.

Some Days You Win Big

"I know what you mean," I says,
an' down the booze in one gulp.
It's the 100 proof stuff, bottle half full.
Steve mumbles somethin' an' pours again.

Some days you win big.

A Trip Ain't Nothin' But A Fall

Like usual, I ain't payin' attention,
rushin' into the Eagle to play my number,
rushin' so's I don't miss my bus to town
when bam! I run into her.
We both fall down,
but she gets up quick.
"Damn!" I says.  "Tush," she says.
"Holy shit!" I says.  "Son of a bitch," she says.
"I can't believe my eyes," I says.  She laughs.
"Tush," she sorta sings—it's her pet name for me.
I start to apologize in a thousand ways.
Must be twenty years since I seen her last.
An' she's lookin' only a coupla years older.

She's smilin', her blue diamond eyes
shootin' a million dazzlin' sparkles.
I try to get up but, hell, know full well
I'm only gonna fall down
harder again.

Just A Dream?

I'm thinkin' you gotta be kiddin?
This feels like a scene from West Side Story—
there ain't nobody ina store but me and her,
an', fahcrissake, background music's playin'.
I feel like my name's Tony
an' I'm about to sing, "Tonight,
Tonight!  Won't be just any night!"

The door opens an' torn lotto tickets swirl.
"You lose a contact or somethin'?"
The voice is like a ice pick ina ear.
I look up at the manager.  She's starin'
at my knees which is still ona floor.
"Naw, naw," I say an' start to rise.

Then I notice the love of my life is gone.
An ole Jimmy Clanton tune fogs my brain.

Retreat To Regroup

First thing I do at home is pour a double,
down it in one swallow.
"Hot damn!" I says to my cat.
She looks up then licks herself.
I run my tongue over my lips,
imaginin' the feel of Mary's lips.
The bottle's in my hand.
I ain't botherin' with no glass.

This situation calls for
some calculated thinkin'.

Old Habits Are Hard To Break

By dinnertime I know she ain't callin'
so I go to the Eagle, hang out for while.
If she was me, I know she'd come
to where she seed me last.
How could she resist?
Me, the love of her life, right?

"Ain't that right?" I ask the plate glass window
that caught my reflection but get no answer.
"Hey!" this meaty voice stabs me ina back.
I turn and see a cop poundin' out
a beat on his palm with a billy club
a tune I heard plenty a times before.
"Move along," he says.  "Customers only."

I nod an' shuffle off,
listenin' for the swing of the stick.

By Rote

I don't believe in nothin' no more,
least of all me  I'm too tired
even to pretend.  On good days,
I try not to drool.

Nobody notices.  It's like
I'm invisible.  Months or
years go by.

Steppin' ona Crack

This woman looks me ina eye
an' smiles.  What the hell?
That ain't supposed to happen.
She stops in my face, snaps
fingers of both hands
an' I'm like a marionette—
can't control my face,
arms flyin' all over the place.

I try to ask why
but the strings slip
an' I collapse.

Joseph Lisowski The voice of Stashu Kapinski comes from the working class neighborhood of Lawrenceville, that area of Pittsburgh behind the abandoned steel mills on the banks of the Allegheny River. Many people I've known while growing up in that section of the city combine to form Stashu's character. He's a crusty, angry, strangely vulnerable, long time unemployed steel worker bewildered by the world before him and his place in it. (I have 3 complete, unpublished book length manuscripts of Stashu Kapinski).  email: jolisowski@yahoo.com