Two Poems by Vickie Smalls

Meanwhile at Flann O'Briens

by Vickie Smalls

Saint Mark, I am writing you

a Hail Mary on a cocktail napkin

Call it an afterthought or an epitaph

an itemized receipt

for the various favors owed-

for the broken glass in the ashtray

& the lipstick stain on the drapes

& the twelve-odd dollars for that last pack

of Camels (I know,

I know,

you hate to keep me waiting-

I cross myself twice,

smoke the damn thing down to the consecration-)

Saint Mark, I am writing you

a postcard from the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line

You know as well as I do

how the splinters under your fingernails

sting that much meaner when you’re

carrying someone else’s cross- You know

that these things have a weight and a shape to them,

our tired gestures of ritual,

that even the greatest love story ever told is just big enough

to fill a shot glass to the lip- if that- (I know,

I know,

you hate to keep me waiting-

I’ve left room for our regrets,

our hesitations-)

Saint Mark, I am writing you

an IOU on the walls of a confessional booth

an apology for all I’ll never be, I am

the daughter you never wanted &

the son you asked for &

I know I promised not to talk about the girl, but

she was burning so red & so mean & so lovely as she screamed at me-

I could have hit her back, but I

have never had your kind of Catholic constitution & so I sit,

hiding behind another pint, nursing my bruises- (I know,

I know,

you hate to keep me waiting-

The radio mutters its obscenities,

stuck between stations-)

Saint Mark, I told her

that I’d be back in half an hour,

lying through bleeding teeth

like I didn’t even need her to believe me- here,

the bar breaks out in a half-cocked chorus of Sweet Caroline,

& I contemplate the smell of napalm at last call- oh

if you could see this mess, these flaming assholes,

what’s their excuse- you & me, at least,

have business to avoid-

to say nothing of each other- (I know,

I know,

you hate to keep me waiting-

if they crucify us both,

I’ll bring champagne for the occasion-)

Saint Mark, I’m thinking about calling you

about the stage-prop plastic telephone

painted panic-room red while you

sit alone in your fallout shelter,

those translucent hands hovering, expectant,

over the receiver- I’m thinking

about drunk-dialling god and telling him

to push the fucking button already

I want to call to say I saw you

on an L-train platform,

but my lips just drip bile, silent,

like always-

Saint Mark, the things I beg of you are easy:

three grand cash

a deck of cigarettes with the filters ripped off

a paper bag to carry them in-

Time allowing,

one more chance. (& I know,

I know,

these nights keep getting harder

Saint Mark, if she asks:

You never had a daughter.)

Love in the Time of the Starbucks Drive-Thru

by Vickie Smalls

Melissa’s got a thing

for her pharmacy tech, she confesses

she’s refilling her prescriptions twice a week

just for the sake of making awkward small talk

with the girl behind the window, oh- she sighs, she says,

Green eyes always get me- like the color of that stupid shirt they make her wear,

like a drugstore dyejob

that’s a little more chlorine than bleach, and oh god,

that Bruins tattoo on the back

of her neck- she says, I’m telling you,

a million milligrams of Ativan couldn’t stop my hands from shaking, but

seeing as she’s seen the pills I’m taking (seen and sorted,


into those tiny little plastic bottles- her hands, are they gentle, do you think

she wears gloves or for one brief and shining moment did her fingertips

make contact with the tablets that would

later cross your lips, do you consider

that a kiss? Or just semantics? Or anyways, she’s seen the pills, so:)

she already knows I’m crazy, and that’s like

basically getting to third base, right?

Melissa sips

her latte, eyebrow arched- I might

have an honest answer under slightly better circumstances

but I’m nursing some preoccupations of my own, and this wicked killer headache

that’s right on the verge of calcifying into a hangover- I mumble, yeah,

Green eyes always do it for me, too,

and i’m not about to admit what any of this has to do

with my insistence on this particular coffeeshop when

There was a Dunkins four blocks closer but christ, I can’t stop staring

In spite of myself- the barista

is whistling something stupid and tuneless and

wearing that one Talking Heads shirt that

might’ve been a good excuse for conversation a month ago but I never really got around

to the stage of the relationship where I formed complete sentences- (I know,

I’ve been coming here too much, but

no self-respecting addict can resist a fix, nor

any masochist a crush- it’s really nothing,

but when I stumble in all stammering, red-faced and

reeking of Miller High Life he just smiles and hands me

a dark roast, large, and points me

In the general direction of the water cooler- I swear

these small kindnesses hurt the worst)

If he and I have babies, I mutter, more to

myself than her, they’d better get his eyes- mine

are always bloodshot-

And I guess,

if these pathetic dregs of human decency

are enough to get me wet, I’m better off

not knowing anybody’s name- it’s kind of like

hiring a hundred-dollar-an-hour escort to come over

and sit on the edge of the bed, murmuring

noncommittally encouraging things about the book I’m still not working on, except

maybe better, Melissa points out-

Because in the end, she still gets her meds

and I get a cup of coffee, at least

and these other poor bastards

get to escape on their shift breaks, share a cigarette

behind the dumpster and commiserate

over unsolicited phone numbers scribbled on

credit card receipts, get to, time allowing

grab a latte,



at that place

with the hot barista-

Vickie Smalls is a part-time poet, occasional artist, and full-time dilettante. Typically between addresses, but can always be reached at

Image by louis r, found on Flickr.

#poetry #vickiesmalls #februarymarch2018 #atonement #green #drinking #crushes #saintmark #starbucks

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