Avery Gregurich: Two Poems for Flavor Town USA

The Recipe Said When Picking Rhubarb, Red or Green Would Do
after Ted Kooser

head to walt’s house north of the casino, checking your rearview
often for any hangerson eager for the whereabouts of the last good
rhubarb of the season. greet walt with bottom shelf rum in exchange
for the rhubarb. accept when he pours some in a can of royal crown
cola and offers it up to you. let him warn you again about lyme’s disease
and the american oil beetle thriving out there he claims to have to mow
over twice a week. take note of him watching from the garage while you
sweat and pick rhubarb with rum-sticky hands. catch the edge of his
cigar smoke in your nose as you pick the stalks which best resemble
venison sticks. put the rhubarb in a big plastic sack so that it too is
sweating. bat at black flies bad enough this year to have killed every
pheasant hatchling in the water district. hear the backyard dogs barking
away the afternoon while bicyclists glide by on the bones of the old railroad
line. leave when you catch the seventh inning through the radio. your day’s
work is almost through. pour in a pound of domino sugar, toss in two packs
of red star yeast, and tie the handles of the plastic sack together. drop it into
a cardboard box and send the thing to away to a dead aunt’s address in ohio,
or that boarded-up hardware store you saw in northeast missouri. it makes no
difference, just stick to the middle and be sure to include a return address.
by the time it gets back, the cardboard will be darkened from the carmine
liquid leaking some inside. tip the carrier well and put the box into the
bathtub. allowing for some spillage during the bottling process, it’ll still be
tot enough to be poured across your lips, the horizon, until the chimneys
start breathing their cigar smoke again.

Red All Over
for Philip Guston

here comes the reverend freakchild, tossing out
wonder bread ham-and-cheese sandwiches to the
hands reaching out from the manholes. both bread
sides knife-spread so thick with real mayonnaise
that it spills out, clouding the plastic bags as
they fly. it could have been lobsters, dynamite, hot
dogs, lucky strikes with or without filters: the hands
always catch and gather all they can. the budget
measured for bologna, but you don’t amass a
congregation with that original american amalgamation
of pork and chicken. the reverend needs a press
secretary, someone with a podium at a slightly
higher altitude to properly broadcast his message.
what do you think a radio sermon sounds like
down in a manhole? these are those that keep the
reverend up, even after drinking his bedside crystal
flute of olive oil pomace. perhaps a series of children’s
books would help attract a growing crowd. kids are the
key to entice a decent tithe, you know. just as alcohol
requires the liver, so too the smoke kisses the esophagus
upon arrival and departure in thanks for thinking of it.
we used to make monuments, ship them on silver
locomotives to all the surveyed corners of this common­-
wealth with plans for assembly later. someone told the
reverend that they don’t think they are even going to be
minting nickels anymore by this time next year. in the
reverend’s dreams there is sometimes a pour spout
tipping from behind the clouds. whatever sap it streams
forth, he can never get enough.

Avery Gregurich is a writer living and working in Marengo, Iowa. He was raised next to the Mississippi River, and has never strayed too far from it.

Image: wholefully.com

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