Shirts or Skins, a 2014 poetry chapbook by Jim Redmond

Square One

In the parking lot
under the buzz
of Beer, Wine, Lotto
I am lighting the cigarette
of another beat man.

The half-drunk Marine,
his sober appraisal
of my shattered handshake.

His my wife left me again.
His guttural damn this, and damn that
as if the work of some broken god

had dragged his voice back
from the desert’s big empty,
had tempted a stone into bread
only to harden again

as he pours some Jim Beam
into his Slurpee. All it takes
is for him to hand me
a swig, straight from the bottle,
straight to the brain, the whole spun
world I have punched into
every night-shift, every blue hour

where I am only consolatory
where I am only a cashier
with a nametag to prove it.
My hello, how may I help you?
I can only make change,
and am only sometimes
clever enough to remember
two sums of money
are distinguishable
only by their amount;

that each man, finds out his own
separate damning, in due time,
the remainder of which we spend
seeking it out in each other’s.


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