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John Kusak

Tracks 1996

Someone called the cops.
For fuck sake, we were only slamming
A tree limb against the Taco Bell intercom
Demanding they serve us on foot and after-hours
When the blue and red lights came flashing
We were on the tracks near the campus
Sitting and sharing our whiskey from out of the bottle.

In the drunk tank I was thrown.
After being stripped-searched
I felt an absurd invincibility-
I couldn’t go much lower
Then this massive Mexican brute stole my jacket
And used it for a pillow
I shouted profanity through the key hole
At anyone who walked by.

My Grandfather bailed me out the next morning
And asked me where my jacket was.
I told him I didn’t want to talk about it,
He said someday I would.

John Kusak Copyright 2004




My girl’s asleep
I’m thinking of stealing her car
going for a drive.
But, the moon is out of reach
I grab for fistfuls of Irish mist
with keys in hand
and decide that rain has a purpose
I walk back inside
find a letter
read the white instead of the black,
read a Robert Creeley poem
entitled, “I Know a Man”
look out the window
at stillness as hard as concrete
toss the keys on the table
slip under the covers
naked as glass.

John Kusak Copyright 2004



St. Petersburg

Jimmy was one of them.

At age 13, his eyes jubilant

We all knew for sure,

He’d change things.

A couple years later

He fell in with the wrong crowd

We all saw it coming

Down he went;

Holding crucifix’s to the wind,

Stealing gravity from the local store,

And sleeping in the pasture.

We just let him be,

Thought he’d turn it around,

By 18, He was in jail

Never graduated high school.

Apparently, the story went that he slit a man’s hamstring

Over a 12 ounce can of Budweiser.

If I was the judge, I would have found him guilty too

With his airs of riding mermaids,

And flicking off the moon.

Couple years later,

His parents received a letter from Paris

Turned out that he had been speaking

To some French girls

And one of them suggested he try the University.

His ma told me, that the letter smelt of gasoline,

But that he was in school and alive.

Again, we waited for him to grow up

And get a job, make something of himself,

Couple years later, back in 1998,

He wrote me a letter,

And from what I could decipher,

He was broke, hungry

But never coming home.

The letter was postmarked from Indonesia.

I showed it to his mother,

She blamed drugs,

His father thought that he was a lost cause,

That he was long gone,

On some frequency without waves,


Never hitting the ground.

The stories went back and forth,


Flickered against the wind.

In 2003, may 3rd exactly,

A young American was given the Nobel Prize

In Mathematics.

I remembered how quickly Jimmy’d spit out answers without

Even hearing the entire question,

Like some idiot savant.

Turned out that the Nobel Prize winner was in a wheelchair,

And my hero, my nephew

Was shot to death the following year

In a small town outside St. Petersburg.

Police reports said it was over a bottle of Vodka,

Others say it was over a 12 ounce can of Budweiser.

John Kusak Copyright 2004



Box of Sawdust

Hidden in a box full of sawdust

Was a baseball with Jackie Robinson’s signature,

My grandpa said he was just a nigger.

We used to listen to the radio

Together. He’d pace the floor

And shout profanities at the speakers, I’d sit on the couch

With my glove in hand, watching Nanny tip-toe round the house.

“He’s only a coon, unleash the dogs” he’d yell.

Nanny would bring us cheese pretzels, occasionally a hot dog,

He’d stuff his mouth with food and once he nearly choked to death,

When Jackie rounded second and took off for third,

The radio announcer relayed the call,

A foot went into the speaker.

Years later, I got that ball out from the box of sawdust,

Sat in the living room and yelled,

“Unleash the dogs”

I stood up and put the ball on the mantel

Kissed my Nanny on the forehead

And walked out the back door.

John Kusak Copyright 2004






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