scarecrow poetics/essays

Monday, February 27, 2006


The Lawnmower...

We moved out of the city when the kid turned four
The wife couldn’t go on even one more night with
all three of us
sleeping in the same bedroom

“We’ve got to have more space,” she said
“before one of us loses it.”

So we came out to the suburbs
mortgaged ourselves for the rest of our days

It’s going to be better, everyone told us:
Cleaner air
Less noise
Better schools
No violent crime to speak of

Well, what the hell
I went kicking and screaming
But I went
because I wanted to keep it together
make sure my son had a daddy
I even pitched in, painted the basement floor
and one or two of the walls of the place we bought
to show my good faith in our new, improved life

But I missed the city every day
missed hearing the Spanish and Mandarin and Hebrew
whenever I walked down Canal Street
and the sirens the horns the jackhammers
the shattering bottles and screams in the night
the sweet smells of piss and puke
the rats the winos the maniacs
the magnificent ass swarming over the filthy asphalt
like cockroaches wherever you looked
the way you never knew your neighbors’ names

But in the end
I had to admit “they” were telling the truth
about the crime and the noise and the filth
and the air quality, that is

Now we’ve got peace and greenery:
trees, flowers, and lots of grass

The wife likes it out here
The kid likes it out here (he’s got a backyard to play in now)
And it’s true that we couldn’t continue pissing away all that jack
on rent and a parking space in the city

But there is one thing about living on
Ashbrook Lane that drives me to the edge:
The lawnmowers
which roar outside the windows like mad bull elephants

Seems out here everybody’s got one
They’re gas-propelled
hand-operated like in the old days
some you even ride like a tractor

And mowing their lawns
(and fertilizing, seeding, edging, clipping and pruning)
is all these brain-dead
motherfuckers seem to want to do with their spare time

Now the wife wants me to join the ranks
“It’s exercise,” she says
“and since you’re out of work again,
we shouldn’t have to pay someone to cut our grass.”

This evening I hiked over to the ATM
to deposit my unemployment check
and since summer is just around the corner

all the feudal lords were out there guiding
their mechanical beasts

Well, the din of those infernal engines
got to me
when all I wanted was a quiet stroll in the fresh air
“Shut the fuck up –- I’m trying to think!”
I yelled at one prince
but under his sound-proof earphones he was oblivious,
so he smiled benignly and waved

And moving on I said to myself, No, no, no -– not for me

“No way, honey,” I’ll tell the wife,
“you’re not gonna sucker me into it.
What did I tell you when I agreed to move out here?
I’ll do it for the kid,
but I sure as hell ain’t no lawn service.
No, I got better things to do with my time”
(like write poems and stories and novels
that nobody seems to want)

She was putting the kid to bed when I got back
I didn’t say a word to her
It could wait until tomorrow, I figured

I tried to push the ubiquitous grass-cutters out of my mind
Tried my damnedest to forget that I was stranded in the limbo of suburbia
To that end I switched on the TV
flopped on the couch with a beer
and watched Celebrity Boxing II

And that
is what an army of lawnmowers
will do to a man

Mark SaFranko © 2006.

Mark SaFranko's stories have appeared in dozens of magazines and journals internationally, including the renowned Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and The Savage Kick. He was cited in Best American Mystery Stories 2000 and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2005 he won the Frank O'Connor award. Mister SaFranko is also a playwright. The Bitch-Goddess was selected Best Play of the Village Gate One-Act Festival in New York in 1992. An evening of his one-acts which included The Bitch-Goddess recently made its European debut at the Derry Playhouse in Northern Ireland. The production then moved south to the Cork Arts Theatre to strong reviews.

Another play, The Promise, was produced at the Millenium Forum in Derry in June, 2003. Other plays have also been seen at such New York venues as the Samuel Beckett Theater, Belmont Italian American Playhouse, the Harold Clurman Theater, the Creative Place Theater, Wings Theater, the Madison Avenue Theater, and the Riant Theater.As an actor he has appeared in several independent films, including A Better Place, Shoot George, and The Road From Erebus.His novels are Hopler's Statement and The Favor, both available through all the dotcoms. His novel, Hating Olivia, is published by Murder Slim Press. The sequel to Hating Olivia, entitled Lounge Lizard, will be published soon.


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