Three Poems by Daniel Pinkerton

Three Poems


And now the trophy for the graduate

most likely to be killed in a fiery

collision: I’m awarded the nickel-

plated extinguisher, my name etched

on the linchpin. Lucky me, I’m also

pegged as the one most apt to lose a hand

to snakebite. For this I’m handed a snake,

highly venomous. Some people, mainly

those who enjoy lettuce, might call these their

salad days. I call them a TV show

hastily vetoed for lack of wit,

vivid characters, or coherence. Then

again, I marched uncomplaining through near-

fatal locker room hijinks, smoke rolling

off home ec soufflés, doorless bathroom stalls

publicizing my most private functions,

much as the girls soldiered on with only

coin-op tampon machines to attend them.

The guidance counselors arrived at our

keggers already slurring. Our physics

teacher surrendered years ago and was

now merely screening reel-to-reels all day,

shell-shocked projectionist in some theater

of the unprepared. The kid determined

most likely to become an investment

banker became an investment banker.

The one voted most likely to become

a serial rapist became—surprise,

surprise—a serial rapist. Pretty

much everything was preordained. Yet there

was one grade-A nitwit, a bag head and

stalker of underage girls, who transformed

himself into a dentist of local

renown, and as he hovers over me

now in his clean and Christly smock, shining

as though reborn, I with my mouth pinioned

wide can merely grin at his conversion.




Afterward Steve kept the curled

dormant-seeming strip of tape

as a reminder, pressing it in his tablature,

until it became its own kind of notation.

He had trouble answering

the kidnappers’ questions with his voice


muffled so, his toes dangling in a trough

of water, his body cabled like a dead

battery. His captors had been trying

to ascertain the whereabouts of a jailed

accomplice and, due to the strange black case


Steve carried on his person, had taken him

for some kind of agent. Really he was

just a flautist from the hill country

in for a weekend of carnal awakenings.

That night, after his impassioned soloing

in a basement club, Steve was led homeward


by a flower of a girl who dabbed

with fearsome gentleness at the glue still

remnanting his lips, then tied him up

and administered the series of burns

and bites he found he now preferred.




The Father makes an eruption and chaos ensues.

The kitchen fills each morning with the hubris

of The Father’s pickle & pimento loaf.

The Father picking lint from his tweed blazer.


One can watch zoo apes for hours.

It is his favorite program or nothing!

To The Father we live in animal filth, wedded to it.

The Father tosses footballs and makes us fetch.


We are not fetching enough.

The Father grasps his meals by the clavicles, by God!

His tankard of ale we present to him,

a gift he receives with a fluttering grunt.


The Father molts feathers of unexpressed verbiage.

We huddle under The Father’s outcropping.

His markings can more plainly be seen from a distance.

On car trips he recites the gospels of his youth,


the point being that his was the only childhood,

every childhood since his a smudged mirror,

a fart in a windstorm, as he is wont to say.

There is no dust but The Father’s dust, and his is not a dust that scatters.


Lest we forget, his is a rampant and rampaging dust.

The bills he hands us are rimed with it,

the dust rustles between our teeth,

sand flows from our ears as from a tureen.


It is our reminder when he grows old

and becomes a distant figure in a yawning Magritte,

baby-pink stranger gurgling out toothless smiles

as the children pass by in their silken neckties.


Image credit: Dentist at M.H. #5, Auteuil. The Dentist at AMERICAN RED CROSS Military Hospital No. 5 at Auteuil, via the American Red Cross and the Library of Congress.