Drinks at the Last Cafe Final

She found herself on the web her legends lifted and retoldDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
Can I fix these? She complained.
There isn’t enough electricity. Sam squinted at the turbine slowly turning
She nodded and continued to look for her gods.

As they labored over the Sierras, they passed
the bone yard of wrecked trains, accordioned against the base of the mountain
on the sides of the narrow trail, blackberries
and poison oak
gold bars, black cooking pans, red parkas in summer, sandals in winter
The air was as thin as a myth
She felt she could melt her wax wings against the implacable sky.

She squatted down and ran a finger over a solid bar
so pretty; so insistent
But after a few miles, too much.
You could exchange the notebooks for it: it’s valuable.
She thought of the notes fluttering like the hawks
after hitting a turbine
No, no, the stories stay.

She slid the bar out and it landed with a thump and puff of dust
He bent and shaved off a handful of wrinkled foil
lighter than air
heavy as greed.

The Drummer was not as kind to the preacher.
He shot him mid-step.
Damn evangelical, thinks one rhythm works for all songs.

In San Francisco there is gold.
In San Francisco there is stripped copper wire.
In San Francisco ship masts litter the bay
Goblins call, chatter and unload boats with scary speed.
Mangos, green nail polish, knives.

The bars served more food than bread
More drinks than only beer
The Westin Hotel and Cabaret
An Official joined them and for a crease of yellow foil
Told them new stories.
Sam knew in wine there would be truth.

There was no elegant solution the Official admitted
no one says that of course
they sent me out here right before.
Goblins? The girl asked.
The Official grimaced, a practiced gesture
anyone who is different is a Goblin.

But you. I’ve heard about you.

They all flocked to her.
A mermaid singing each to each
she sang to them.

The crowd chanted knowing she could
break open their world
Howling through the night
on the corner of Columbus and Fillmore
jugs of wine passed through the group.

The Drummer sidled up to Sam.
She’s going to need a name.
It would be good for her act Sam agreed.
The Drummer shook his head keeping his eyes fixed on the girl
The battered hat, the ragged edges of her pink tutu thin as a memory
That is no act.

The girl looked better – eyes shining
I’ll tell you about the great mother; you are sitting on her skin
You need to caress her more often and stop hitting.

I will tell you the story of the three-hour cruise
How many of us start – believing
we have only three hours and it turns into
The girl lifted her hands – a natural gesture – the crowd roars.
A lifetime?

She insists they throw shoes as tribute
Size 8

I know how it ends. Sam patted the Drummer’s arm
And turned.
I never thought
I’d see how it begins.

Thank you for following the adventures!

Drinks at the Last Cafe Part III

Everyone moved slowly at the Rapid City Diner  Drinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
The bar tender wiped the countertop with a wet rag
leaving streaks of damp
that did not dematerialize in the heavy air
You know there is never a girl in these stories.

I know, Sam accepted the home brew
With appreciation born of deprivation
I thought it would be more sincere
With the girl
The beer foamed over the mug
Sam wiped his mouth and laughed

More often the RV residents tried to walk the rest of the way
fallen along the high mountain roads
Bring Out Your Dead she whispered

They wintered in airplanes
That’s what Sam liked to call it – wintering.
The sky was so fierce that she named it the Time
of Abandoned Gods
The Travel Gods, the Train Gods, the Grass and Growing Gods
Those hide underground.
Like snakes Sam said.

Of course they weren’t the only ones in line for the planes
A big woman with wild hair in row 16 asked about her.
No, a rescue. Ah, sleeping with her?
Sam shook his head.
The woman eyed the slender girl. She was old enough.
Sam looked at the sky instead of the wild hair
I am not tempting her gods.
So he and the woman went in the back.

Vision of the street. As the street hardly knows.
He called himself the Drummer
since that’s where the first terror gang found him
what were the choices?

Boys wilding in the center of the country, taking on
anything that moved – Goblins; they made the best story
Already the enemy. The terror gangs attacked.
They titled it the great train robbery
The Drummer posted the video on creaky You Tube
It never made money
so the Corporation never bothered to take it down.

The Mother God,
The girl explained to the men in the long light of spring
has to stay with us, must care for us
which is why she is the mother.
which is why she must be a god.

Her logic, impeccable; the beer, helpful
The desperate men nodded and gave them both

If you are abandoned. The girl continued
the Mother God will protect you.
Like a foster mom. One man said.
Yes, she agreed, not knowing what that meant
It didn’t matter; she and Sam were safe for another night.

By reasonable deduction
The rest of the gods were angry gods
I will find out why. She said.
Sam helped her down the muddy banks of the Missouri river
She scrambled and tried to imagine enough water
to wake and drown
Yes, find out
the names of the gods, ask around.
A trained roared overhead.
Cries of the Goblins mocked them from above.

He always tried to stuff her backpack with food
Cans of chips, ding dongs the stuff that survived in the Chevron stop
the notebooks took up too much room.
Leave them?
No, I will carry the stories, leave the cans.

The Preacher still danced on the graves of the wicked
The wicked! The wicked did perish!
I told you all so! He danced and danced a round, spinning dance

The girl drew up as she watched,
the ground shifted, the preacher stumbled,
Sam threw out a warning arm
She pulled up to her full height, taller by much more than when they began
he noticed with astonishment.
The wicked.
The Preacher fell into the dust and rocks.

All the voiceless women, she whispered
the stoned, the burned, the buried, the raped
How do you know the wicked?

Because they are gone!
The howl danced from his lips and was caught up in a train whistle.
What was that?
Sam smiled
The Goblins travel much faster.

Drinks at the Last Cafe Part II

The Corporation, you’ll be relieved to hear
is operating again, up and running, ready to take care
of your needs at some point. In the mean time.Drinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
Don’t Go SOUTH
Stay. We will REbUILD
not as catchy as
Eat your rat
It has no fat
Perhaps that was the trouble.

No, not all dead.
They could see the arrays ahead
Sucking in just enough unstable sun
to power a small lap top
a phone
an oven.
The Last Café
We have beer and bread
Sam smacked down cigarettes instead.
The girl – was not for trade.

Jerry was a poet and a thief
He wanted the girl, but accepted a pack
of cigarettes
It may cause death, she pointed out the label on the pack

Oh sweetheart. He blew smoke from his nose.
Everything causes death, even staying alive.
I saw them, Jerry said in exchange.
All headed south to Orlando
Pushing and Pulling suitcases, grocery carts
Costco flat carts, packed trucks the whole family
Pushing that stuff along.
whole morning to drag that much stuff
just a few yards forward.

Like the markets before
the Goblins controlled the trains
They worked the coal mines so long – the fuel
belonged to the Goblins
Sam smirked. We didn’t consider that.

YOU can lose unwanted POUNDS in just weeks.
They were right
losing weight was easy
she could count all her ribs.

I would love an airplane he said.
To fly, that would be like being a god.
There are no gods. She pointed out.
Not anymore. Sam kicked the rocks on the asphalt road.
But we need them, the gods, she continued.
Then make some up, he was tired of talking
Girls talked more than boys; he forgot that.
Okay, she said calmly, I will.

Some travelers were not thieves, but just wanted to share.
Sam still didn’t know which he preferred.
A handful of cigarettes adverted violence and bought silence
The girl took the stories – a traveling stenographer

In the Saloon at the End of the Line
a woman shared her huge apple
I had my arms up again,
her arms were deep red and scarred, her face spared.
He lit up right in front of me – a Roman Candle, remember those?
I hardly know what to do with myself now.

From the dark safe bunkers in the East, the corporation
issued questions from survey monkey:
1) how do you like us so far?
2) how’s the fall out?
3) do you feel more/less secure on a scale of one to ten
Ten being very secure.
A hacker from Montana sent in the results:
(1) Not secure
At all.
The site disappeared
Many forgot to vote

They came across the dead of course
Some random, caught in the blast, caught in the fall out, caught out.
Some lay in circular patterns, feet to feet, in a ragged cart wheel
Dead before the blast.

It was God, one guardian of such dead intoned
Your God killed them? The girl asked.
No, no, he impatiently waved his hand munching on a meat sandwich
No. They are with God
How do you know?
I sent them there.

100 miles per hour, Sam gloated stroking the dusty car hood
seven days of walking
accomplished in one hour, think of that.

Don’t you see?
At The Final Lounge
The woman of a certain age crowed
every wrinkle – gone!
Got them back when tanning was getting something done.
She pointed to the red stretched skin
blasted right away
I can’t stop looking at my face.

The center of the highway curved
over the bare horizon.
Shelters looked like casinos
Seven Feathers and a Squaw

The Drummer bragged –
Women loved me
he rolled his head, black hair flying
I was in the casino basement at the time
we thought it was a lame gig

You make music like I saw on TV.
The girl finally got up the courage to speak

Yeah, almost as good as fucking TV.

Deep in their bunkers, the easterners
snatched up random writers
as if Letter Men were wandering in packs
and only needed to be cut from the herd, and hauled underground
enough huddled in the dark and wrote for food and safety
From us it is the truth – DO NOT GO WEST
The survivors trudged through the sandy oily soil
And did not hear anything.

Packs of RVs, white land whales
Beached on their sides or backs, the attached furniture
Still serving a skewed purpose.
Yes, chortled the old man,
we had so much to eat
we needed a big cart to roll the food out of the store
a big car to take it all home
the refrigerators! The electricity!
The girl saved Twinkies to exchange for his story:

People like us, the old man remembered
stranded on an island, season after season
The professor tried to make a boat
The cabin boy struggled to help
He made the others laugh.
The movie star was very pretty.

Sam considered her notes. I don’t think that’s a legend
She finished writing with a flourish
It is now.

Drinks at the Last Cafe – Part I

Some took pictures with damaged phonesDrinks at the Last Cafe, a dystopic poem
buildings flayed alive
collapsing away from the center
A pattern of worn dominoes hit by an angry child

You had to be quick of course, to see the photos
the cities that became just place names overnight
A rescued laptop hooked to a generator with a minute and a half of charge left
one minute on a rogue site
thirty seconds before the corporation shut it down.

It’s not true that we all died.

She met him right after.
Her parents stayed dead in the back of the dank theater
she was too slow when the carts came by
Bring out your dead.
Tired of rat
she dressed in leg warmers and a top hat
picked her way to the Last Cafe In The City

Call me Sam
he huddled over a beer
smoked his last.
Alone? Worried about the Goblins?

It was always so dark in the alley behind the theater where her mother worked.
It was difficult to imagine how that hard light
penetrated so deep between the V of black vertiginous buildings
the flash of white puncturing the small TV

the children stopped chanting
Eat your Rat
It’s Low in Fat
the terror gangs stopped shooting
didn’t want to do the other side any favors.

She knew she couldn’t stay another day.
Sam finished his beer. How old?
Shit, thought you were 18
They all want me to be 18
We do he agreed.
He helped her order everything that was left.

California, he announced to her and the empty dishes
Sam unfolded a large map, a complex origami project.
This goes back to when it was terribly normal
to drive forever, cars blackened the country
Like buffalo –

It will take a few seasons, he cautioned
Gold Coast, Swimming Pools, Movie Stars
South is faster, you sure?
She knew about seasons – swimsuit season, flu season

He scooped up a computer, three loaves of hard bread
and the girl: top hat, leg warmers and a pink tutu

Once they cleared the domino buildings
the sun, a basketball orange suspended mid-dribble
on an intractable asphalt sky
motioned them to follow its everyday death.

They encountered others – anyone with only a few things
to carry, escaped the quickest
some survived, although they didn’t know it at the time
traveling west served as a last act of defiance.

She told Sam stories
to fill in the silent trudging towards the flaming sun
how she felt trapped between buildings
that squeezed daylight into switch blades of light

the Goblins yelled from the shadows
back and forth, trading a persimmon for an apple
Buy, buy, buy
Don’t be afraid her mother ordered
but don’t eat.

hand size strawberries,
cantaloupes the size of her head
buy buy buy the Goblins
dressed in same kind of clothes and shoes
as she –
Her mother
wore fantastically high platform boots
swayed from booth to booth in her short dress
An uncertain tulip, the stalk too weak to hold up the head

buy buy buy.
Computers glowed at the stalls; displaying web sites with stories,
tiny children held up gigantic strawberries
grapes, bananas, it’s all good, grinned the Goblins,
all organic. Natural. Certified.

No, no we will find the cans. Her mother said
dragging the girl from the fruit.
We’ll find the kind already
chopped up into bite size
bits and pieces, stored in aluminum recycle, reuse, reduce
they pushed the cans home in metal carts with broken wheels.

now the metal carts are filled with bodies.
Bring out your dead.
Did they eat the fruit, the dead?
By the time she knew, it didn’t matter
and the Goblin market was gone.

Blast Away Fat
Her mother read the article out loud every night.
Her mother’s arms
were held together in the middle
by a knob of bone.
The camera adds ten pounds; she tapped at the cover of Glamour
The girl wondered if mother would look better
if she held a camera up between them.

Burnt out days. Sam muttered.
the poets are always right.
It just takes time.

Continued next week.  Subscribe!