Edit the Sad Parts (A Phantasmagoria of My Mother)
Texas Sam’s was the home bar for all the sad
losers and sad loser lovers in the state.
It was in Arkansas; Sam was from Maine.
He was never one to let things bother him,
and had won Sam’s in a bet like Han Solo.
He drank whenever he had time to spare, oh
about every day. For women like Sparrow
Meadowlark, Sam’s was a refuge less sad
than home. She was raising four young kids solo,
aside from boyfriends and money from the state.
Dan was a father, but she didn’t tell him.
Forgetting her kids for a night was her main
reason for coming here, and reason to remain.
She drank liquor and no eye was on Sparrow.
If a man hit on her she would give to him
what he wanted in the back of his truck. Sad
afterwards, he’d offer her money. To state
her point she’d refuse and go back to solo
drinking. She didn’t always come home solo.
Sometimes she had a drunk man in tow, his main
purpose being loud orgasms. In this state
she avoided her teen son, who closed Sparrow’s
door. He kept the kids, feeding them from a sad
bag of chips. In the morning she would tell him
that that had been really the last time, tell him
she’d come back and be Mom, sail life’s ship solo.
He would listen, watching her face as the sad
lines formed. That night she would be at Sam’s, main-
lining Wild Turkey. Her son didn’t tell Sparrow
about the call by the woman from the State
Office of Child Welfare. He overstated
how often his mother was at home— to him
it was about loyalty. He believed Sparrow
every time. When the food got so low
they ate mayonnaise, he stole from her, mainly
change, to buy hotdogs. Boiling, they looked so sad.
Sad, Sparrow thought about leaving the state.
Maintaining her seat, she thought about him.
So low were the lights in Sam’s, thought Sparrow.
Gary Charles Wilkens’ first book, The Red Light Was My Mind, won the 2006 Texas Review Breakthrough Poetry Prize. His manuscript Fayetteville was a Finalist in the 2014 Moon City Review Poetry Contest. His poems have appeared more than 70 journals and anthologies, including The Texas Review, Moon City Review, Passages North, the Adirondack Review, James Dickey Review, Melancholy Hyperbole, and Midwest Quarterly. His fiction has appeared in Drunk Monkeys, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Pale Ghosts Magazine. His day job is Associate Professor of English at Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia.