two poems by Karl Koweski

the hyena in winter

the walls of his mental palace
are adorned with golden scenes
depicting his life’s seminal events
that almost could have might have
happened if things
were a little bit different

the hyena in winter
surveys his bar room veldt
and wonders how it came to be
even the early summer hippos
refuse invitations to his den

he’s spent a lifetime
nipping at the flanks
of alpha males only
to trot away at the
first gleam of barred teeth

his mobility
now hampered by
multiple knee surgeries
football injuries, he claims
face haunted by the ghost
of a shit-eating grin
though how a man can tear
his ACL while watching the
Crimson Tide on television
is left unexplained

for now Crown Royal crutches
and Hydrocodone braces
keep his haunches secure
he smiles out of context
the hyena in winter
imagining the shadow of a lion
hunting small victories
in a jungle of
continual defeat
unaware of the moment
his desperate roaring
segued to bitter braying

off brand cigarettes

pale blue eyes
the petrol
the wet asphalt

from where I stand
in the doorway
of the Twilight Lounge
I watch the
cars streak past
interior eyes
between curious
and menacing
and apathetic

across the street
a rodent
scurries along
the gutter
as though it
has someplace
better to be

the slight pang
of envy I feel
chases me back


Gretchen by Karl Koweski

I know I’m in
for a bad night
when Gretchen hobbles into work
sobbing and clutching her belly.

I have to give the jackass
she’s shacked up with some credit;
he’s wily enough to keep
his punches centralized
around her abdomen.

black eyes, split lips
and blood-ringed nostrils
(unless dope related)
doesn’t sit well
with the clientele.

even the Industrial Strip
has some standards.

Bennie calls me into his office,
a closet-sized room identical
to the private dance “lounge”
we call the bj parlor.
Bennie sits behind
a seventies era teacher’s desk.
since I’m expendable
I get to sit
with my back to the door.

“what we gonna do
‘bout Gretchen?” Bennie asks.

what do you mean?

“well, we can’t have
some cocksucker busting up
our girls, making it so
they can’t hardly move around.”
I don’t see where
it concerns us
unless he comes in here.

“you like women getting
the shit knocked outta them?”

of course not

“then why wait for it
to happen here where
it can disturb the customers?
this is what I like to call
a pre-emptive strike..” Continue reading