Bill Tarlin

And I’m running just as fast as I can into the city night and its all about accomplices / hidden nooks open manholes low branches parked cars low hats and high newspapers / camera in the potted plant / vagrant sitting on a blanket holding a cardboard sign not looking up saying thank you when you haven’t dropped a coin / the faster you go the more people you have to brush aside, and is it the ones who bristle or the ones who play it cool who are subvocalizing keywords into the system? / And I’m running just as fast as I can and it’s all about the partners who throw distractions underfoot to slow me in the run from death, the panic / The cancer ward is the other way, the hospice is the other way, the decades flow the other way and the self-annihilating bug that married into our DNA, that only lately revealed itself, its irrevocable conspiracy acting out in the muscle, the respiratory system, the thyroid, the prostate, the liver, the short term memory, the complete and utter failure of the defensive faculty of angelic pretensions in a mechanical universe / What was I thinking when I chose these sneakers / for the hundred extra dollars you don’t know whether you„re buying quality or just paying the consultants who weigh fashion against buoyancy, spring, and endurance / All I know is my feet are warm, the socks aren’t wicking, the crotch of my boxers is damp, and the small of my back and the bead of sweat on my forehead is going to salt my eye before I get to the intersection, blinding me to the fact that no one is standing still, they’re all picking up the pace, some are going faster than me, they’ve all heard about Japan, about North Africa, about the shut downs, about the banks, about the heat and the longer winters and the shorter life expectancy of the uninsured / It’s a shuffle and scamper / only my mail order queen had the courage to say “fuck you I quit, I hate your game and your lies and your posturing and I won’t play. Call me a loser, call me a crack whore, you don’t know me I don’t want your pity, I am not ashamed to sit down in the middle of your store and do abso-fucking- lutely NOTHING except love with tears in my eyes until your pig faced cops who I also love haul me off to some stinking bug infested institution and call it charity. Good, I’d rather be in pain with my own thoughts and know I chose sanity in the nut house than earth raping, hypocritical materialistic paternalistic egotistic spastic craptastic nowheresville.” / Queen Vashti, I’m running because I’m afraid to fall and lose my keys, my name, my place, my ride, my meds, my bed and breakfast and second breakfast and snacks before lunch and chocolate after lunch and peanuts for protein and diet soda for energy and where was I running / and who was watching and / the light is green and at this late hour there really isn’t any traffic and I can just walk across the street to the park where the apple wine is protected by brown paper and that girl who can’t be sixteen is making a bed with her brother behind the hedge and the last straggler from the free concert is waving his arm wildly at the skyscrapers on my side of the street / is yelling “over there man, over there that’s capitalism man, that’s the Man right there. No, yeah, we’re free on this side; we’re real. Cross the street man, check it out! It’s where you live you fucking moron.”


Bill Tarlin works for a large advertising agency in Chicagoland where he lives with his wife and daughter. He has published previously in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Columbia Poetry Review, and the Third Lung Review.