Duke’s Upper Deck Cafe & Four other new poems by Jason Baldinger

Duke’s Upper Deck Cafe

I finish the last swallow
of my second beer
leave a five spot
on the chrome
top of the bar
hold my teeth
as I step out
to the cold

the air is woodsmoke
there’s a strange red
to the night

I focus my eyes
on the abandoned
space between buildings

if you breathe deeply
you still smell
the blood
turned molten
into ingots



(for Richard Brautigan)

I always forget
to hold my breath
when I pass a graveyard

Garfield Hill
is illuminated
somehow there’s
a stadium
I never noticed

the alcohol
wants to turn
through oncoming traffic
I should take a left
I don’t

I could be a ghost
to witness halogen

but it’s cold tonight
I don’t want to brace myself
against it

I don’t want to look out
through the clouds
the light rings
of my windshield
to watch tundra grow

I don’t want to see my breath
as crystals or steam

your daughter’s book
is on the passenger seat
your suicide on a timer

if you were here
maybe we could
talk about hamburgers
I had one for dinner
it was like a big mac
except all the flavors
were fresh

I could have had another beer
I turned it down
even though I didn’t
know I was gonna
write a poem
that I’ll end


This Drunk Apparition

as kids
we would race
we would fight
our way to the refrigerator
to grab cold bottles
of beer for my dad
his brother, their friends

we each knew
the tax system
we got the first swig
from the long neck
usually powered down
on the way to delivery

sometimes we would wait
looking for unattended bottles
to sneak another pull

it’s summer
I’m extra hands
mostly beer runner
while my dad
and a neighbor
patch concrete steps

idle hands
working hands

idle hands
keep grabbing
at the bottle
little fizz
shines down
my throat

my father drops trowel
reaches for his beer

there is no sweat
left on the long neck
there is no amber
in the vessel

I am a rubber band
caught and guilty
bubbling in the august night

he sends me home
I stumble the couple doors
back. my mother, grandmother
playing games on the porch

horrified at this drunk apparition
send me straight away
to bed, I go dry mouth
into that strange
rapid alcohol slumber

in the morning
lids peel from eyes
the ceiling is real estate
a sky pressing
hard on my forehead
my legs wobble
stomach backflips

a hangover
before it can be verbalized
is more like a dying butterfly

New Eagle Pennsylvania 1960

he has a knack
for knowing
it’s the hottest
day of the year

he comes home
from the mine
washes coal dust
from his face
his neck, his arms
changes into his
only pair of shorts

on his way
to the porch
he grabs
the beer
that’s been
chilling for
over a year

he pops the top
sweat breaks
on his brow
coal dust mascara
runs down
his face

as long
as there’s suds
in the bottle
he’s completely free

For a Linden Tree

I can identify
a linden tree
in moments now
after watching
the tattoo
on her right calf
as she walks

I know the sound
of the wind
through its leaves
from nights lying next
to her, listening
as she dreams

Jason BaldingerJason Baldinger is a poet hailing from Pittsburgh and recently finished a stint as writer in residence at the Osage Arts Community. He’s the author of several books, the most recent are This Useless Beauty (Alien Buddha Press), The Ugly Side of the Lake (Night Ballet Press) written with John Dorsey and the chaplet Fumbles Revelations (Grackle and Crow) which are available now. The collection Fragments of a Rainy Season (Six Gallery Press) and the split book with James Benger Little Fires Hiding (Spartan Press) are forthcoming. Recent publications include the Low Ghost Anthology Unconditional Surrender, The Dope Fiend Daily, Uppagus, Lilliput Review, Rusty Truck, Dirtbag Review, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Winedrunk Sidewalk, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nerve Cowboy Concrete Meat Press, Zombie Logic Press, Ramingo’s Porch, Blue Mountain Review, Red Fez, Blue Hour Review and Heartland! Poetry of Love, Solidarity and Resistance. You can hear Jason read poems on recent and forthcoming releases by Theremonster and Sub Pop Recording artist The Gotobeds as well as at jasonbaldinger.bandcamp.com

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