Do you smell that? How could it be, here,
Where everything looks perfect? That sour tang
Of a pile of one hundred degree garbage
Behind the storefront you’re standing in
Front of. Sniff the air. Look around. But hurry,
You have a whole life of Miss Pancake Face
Pageants & unicorn shows to go to. The window shine
Is all you can see—the shine makes all the puppet
Strings invisible. Everything is great, man. Everything
Is groovy. Beast Sounds! Beach Loving! Everyone knows
That this is the best island filled with the most beautiful
People. Stand tall, sneer. Karate chop evil, & then blow
Kisses. Deny any & all acts of indecency, the degeneracy
Of a hotel room filled with motor-boat-engined phalluses—
All that gravy—the pleasure cruises & sex boats.
Even a noseless victim of the Buck Naked Brigade
Would say something stinks. Right here in river city.
In cowtown. In the city of lights, of sighs, of plum
Picking & juggaloes. This buttery burg. That village
Of apple-bottomed veejays. Take a big old whiff.
Take it & wait. Maybe you’ll shrug, because maybe
It really doesn’t matter. What’s the difference
Between gulag & goulash, anyway? But perhaps
That last lungful will make you shudder, ask yourself
What’s the matter, you burning? & maybe, just maybe,
You’ll remember that fable your mother often told you—
A world populated by fisty gimps & sex slaves & people
Who all say they do what they do because they’re doing
It for you, all those monsters that smile their hate. A land
Where no one repents. A land where no one should be
Unrepentant. A land where, each dusk you hear faint
Voices, a choir, softly in the udder-colored
Haze, harmonizing, devotedly singing, bring
Out the motherfucking whackos .
# # #
Alex Lemon is the author of Happy: A Memoir, and three poetry collections. His writing has appeared in Esquire, AGNI, Kenyon Review, BOMB, New England Review, Open City, and Best American Poetry 2008, among others. He lives in Fort Worth, TX.
“Shakedown Machine” appeared in the Emo issue of TLR (Spring 2011).