Michael Catherwood’s recent publications include poems and essays in New Plains Review, Burning Bush 2, Plainsongs, and Louisiana Literature. He is an Associate editor at Plainsongs and teaches at Creighton University. His first book is Dare from The Backwaters Press. His second book, If You Turned Around Quickly, is forthcoming in June 2016 from Main Street Rag. His third book, Projector, is forthcoming from Stephen F. Austin Press in spring 2017.
Sidewalk NYC, 1954
“You never do find out what makes you tick, and after a while it’s unimportant.”
― Norman Mailer
Norman Mailer is shadow boxing at the curb.
The curb is cornered, no place to duck
and Norm’s going in for the knockout. He works
the inside, pounding the mortar. He tucks
his chin tight like an owl, squares his shoulders
where the tar and the cement meet.
The light is falling, both traffic and sky. The smolder
of taverns and cafes begins to sing
in neon. The blurs in storefront windows glow
like ribbons. The curb lays back. Shadows fail
and Norman boxes in the evening’s dark scene.
Suddenly there are no curbs or sidewalks. Now
the stars glide and arc in their contrails
and Norman concedes to the quiet breeze.
The Intimate Exchange
“First you take a drink, then the drink takes a drink,
then the drink takes you.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
The waiter floats between gin and beer
while mirrors multiply distilled rust.
Patrons watch hours wash down those years
and a blank face announces clearly:
“Crushed lime and a kiss with a light blush.”
The waiter floats between gin and beer;
he juggles and glides and delivers
mosaics of ice lips burn to touch
while hours here can wash away years.
A commandment of booze hangs: No Fear
in the Face of Surrender. No fuss
as the waiter floats out gin and beer
then collects the cash. In the mirror
faces squint behind hidden disgust
where hours wash down delicate years
patrons here drown in. Customers peer
where pasts collect. Do not try to rush
when the waiter floats between gin and beer
where hours wash away those vague years.