Todd Mercer was nominated for Best of the Net in 2018. Mercer won the National Writers’ Prize, 1st, 2nd & 3rd place of the Kent County Dyer-Ives Poetry Prizes and the won Grand Rapids Festival Flash Fiction Prize. His digital chapbook Life-wish Maintenance is posted at Right Hand Pointing. Recent work appears in: 100 Word Story, The Lake, Leaves of Ink, Literary Orphans, The Pangolin Review. Postcard Poems and Prose, Praxis and Soft Cartel.
The Roast’s Honoree
Take it hard, or try to reach for grace,
but cart it to your car and on out my driveway.
Don’t darken the doorstep, said Mrs. Dude X,
consumed though she was with feeding
men’s apparel to the burning barrel,
stir-stick probing the flickering fibers.
Take offense or write this off
as your most famous accident. Either way,
please take it down the road, she told him,
updraft ash of family albums, ties reduced
to soot particulate, merging into general nighttime.
Dude X sees his explanatory powers
failing to hold water. He lets wisdom prevail,
bids adieu and backs out of this inflammatory
situation. He goes in search of motels
for itinerant losers and the newly paroled.
Down to the clothes on his back,
and of course the old beater Chevrolet.
It’s still good to be free.
The Council of Last Resort
It’s noon o’clock somewhere, compañeros.
That’s the zeitgeist in the alley, the self-serving logic
that won these rotgut men and (God help the helpless)
a couple hardscrabble women spots
in the Wild Rose rotation, spinning
outbound slug by swig, discarding all
which isn’t the need or fuel for that need. Seated
in a circle by the dumpster, sun-up dew-sheen
yet to evaporate from surfaces. Never too early
for Early Times. It’s grave o’clock somewhere
under a cool sod blanket, inside pristine silence,
where no other drunk can dump their madness
in another’s ear. Build toward basic buzz
behind the liquor store, the buzz’s
construction tenuous at best. Weekday morning
a weak day among too much weakness
a scavenger of lovely objects
in his women's used fur coat
and protective biker helmet (visor up)
pushes his receptacle along. Nothing in it
but quality goods rescued from oblivion,
runoff from the Coast Ranges,
the Cascades, from the Bitterroots.
The collector wipes clean the salt air,
babies his treasures, corrosion the main danger
in this mist climate. Every perfect shiny thing
can oxidize from just existing.
Mouth of the Columbia River,
hungry always for shipwrecks,
here the flotsam comes to die,
junk and lovely objects alike
swept from the continent,
No One Lasts Forever in the Field
There’s an arsenic capsule
supplied to covert agents
of Free Will, a safeguard
should they find wit’s fallibility,
fall into the hands of enemies.
That’s their notion of assistance
back at headquarters. Those desk jockeys
go home and shirk work problems
come five o’clock. They grab Take-Out,
watch their shows while life’s rich pageant plays.
Field representatives risk their necks
over ideology, for the prize of
information, for dubious news.
The Key Concept
If our hustles come to nothing, let’s blow this popsicle stand,
slink off to Caye Caulker, Be-live a little at that third gear
Caribbean speed. I will bartend inside tiny tiki buildings
a couple days a week, at most. We’ll try not to overspend
the hours zoned out on the coral sand. Each of our ventures
holds a chance of financial success. Yes.
But if the next get-rich angles tangent off a hard surface
force us to spin plates for pennies,
instead let’s take the moving sale proceeds down to Belize
where they dream the weeks away at a saner cost of living.
We need far enough from mainland
to buy the island bubble concept.
The only fear worth fear is hurricanes.