Gary Duehr has taught poetry and writing for institutions including Boston University, Lesley University, and Tufts University. His MFA is from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. In 2001 he received an NEA Poetry Fellowship, and he has also received grants and fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Journals in which his poems have appeared include Agni, American Literary Review, Chiron Review, Cottonwood, Hawaii Review, Hotel Amerika, Iowa Review, North American Review, and Southern Poetry Review. His books of poetry include In Passing (Grisaille Press, 2011), THE BIG BOOK OF WHY (Cobble Hill Books, 2008), Winter Light (Four Way Books, 1999) and Where Everyone Is Going To (St. Andrews College Press, 1999).
Welcome to ‘Murica, welcome to Smashville.
Stay as long as you like, long as you got the cash, pal.
Need a piercing? a side of brisket?
Tattoo, wound care, orthopedics? Is it
A hookah bar you seek,
Somewhere to zone out? On Lower Broadway, it’s the meek
Who play for tips
At Layla’s, Tin Roof, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge—
Starting at noon for almost no one, for a bag of chips
And PBR. Drifters scrounge
A dollar for a hot dog. On the sidewalk, I count three statues
Of early Elvis, whose
Hips still swivel on a little wheeled platform,
Ready for a tourist selfie. Where does everybody come from?
Not here. Like the Uber driver
From Chicago, drumming on tour for 14 years, a survivor,
Till he had kids. Or like me,
From flyover country. Everyone’s got one good story.
Remember how George Jones—
After Tammy W. hid his car keys and poured out the liquor
One fateful night—drove a lawn mower
Two miles to the nearest package store (god rest his bones)?
It’s so ridiculous, absurd, pathetic,
I’d laugh or cry if I wasn’t one of them.
I know these people. They’re mine. You gotta love ‘em.
Even though it’s the cultural anesthetic
Of a gooey Goo Goo bar “that’s good for you,”
Of a silver-plated, pistol-mounted Caddy, hung up over Nudie’s bar for all to view.