“If It Was a Snake” by Louis Jenkins

You’ve lost something, your car keys, or your watch
and you have searched for what seems like hours. But
then suddenly it appears, right there on the table, not
two feet away. “If it was a snake it would have bit you,”
Mother said. That’s what you remember, a phrase,
an old saying. My sister said, “Grandma told me,
‘Never wear horizontal stripes, they make you look
fat.’ That’s one of the few things I remember about
Grandma.” Or the words disappear and an image
remains. I was getting a lecture from my parents
about riding my tricycle all the way downtown. I don’t
remember anything they said. I remember looking
out the window, it was just dark, and a block away
a man wearing a white shirt and a tie passed under
the streetlight and vanished into the night. That’s all.
Out of a lifetime, a few words, a few pictures, and
everything you have lost is lurking there in the dark,
poised to strike.

“If It Was a Snake” by Louis Jenkins from Tin Flag. © Will o’ the Wisp Books, 2013.

“The Big Bang” by Louis Jenkins

When the morning comes that you don’t wake up,
what remains of your life goes on as some kind of
electromagnetic energy. There’s a slight chance you
might appear on someone’s screen as a dot. Face it.
You are a blip or a ping, part of the background noise,
the residue of the Big Bang. You remember the Big
Bang, don’t you? You were about 26 years old, driving
a brand new red and white Chevy convertible, with
that beautiful blond girl at your side. Charlene, was
her name. You had a case of beer on ice in the back,
cruising down Highway number 7 on a summer
afternoon and then you parked near Loon Lake just
as the moon began to rise. Way back then you said to
yourself, “Boy, it doesn’t get any better than this,” and
you were right.

“The Big Bang” by Louis Jenkins, from Tin Flag: New and Selected Prose Poems. © Will o’ the Wisp books, 2013.

 

***

Editing to add: 

This song doesn’t match the poem perfectly, but it does make me smile. Hopefully it will make you smile too:


 

“Regret” by Louis Jenkins

There’s no use in regret. You can’t change anything.
Your mother died unhappy with the way you turned
out. You and your father were not on speaking terms
when he died, and you left your wife for no good
reason. Well, it’s past. You may as well regret missing
out on the conquest of Mexico. That would have been
just your kind of thing back when you were eighteen:
a bunch of murderous Spaniards, out to destroy a
culture and get rich. On the other hand, the Aztecs
were no great shakes either. It’s hard to know whom
to root for in this situation. The Aztecs thought they
had to sacrifice lots of people to keep the sun coming
up every day. And it worked. The sun rose every day.
But it was backbreaking labor, all that sacrificing.
The priests had to call in the royal family to help,
and their neighbors, the gardener, the cooks…. You
can see how this is going to end. You are going to
have your bloody, beating heart ripped out, but you
are going to have to stand in line, in the hot sun, for
hours, waiting your turn.

“Regret” by Louis Jenkins, from Tin Flag: New and Selected Prose Poems. Will o’ the Wisp Books. © 2013