Vol. 2, No. 4: Malice at the Ice Palace photo

3 PoemsBob King

Think About All the Things You’re Not Thinking About

When you dig your toe into the hold in the batter’s box, your extra pair of gloves back pocketed & you don’t even feel them on your rump as you start to focus on the pitcher rubbing up the ball, trying to intimidate you from under his bill’s low cap & you don’t hear the crowd noise as it drops out as if your ears suddenly clog as if you’re on a steeply ascending airplane & you don’t smell the hotdogs or spilled Budweiser slowly cascading down among the peanut shells covering concrete as suds flow from the lower box seats toward the dugout toward the dirt that you can almost feel between your fingers; the dirt that’s so fine but not powdery but almost soft chocolate microplastic beads & there’s one stream of sweat carving across your forehead so you call for timeout so you can consider all the experiences you’ve been neglecting while you were focused on this one about to be brilliant moment.


Mothers of America! Please Let Your Children Come Visit Cleveland!

Because look, we didn’t set the entire river
on fire. And that was so long ago. And now
you can barely smell it. Most of the sulfurous
steel mills have shuttered so sometimes
the sun is actually visible, even if that means
so too is unemployment. Our pro football
team isn’t always terrible, & there are
some genuinely great guys on the squad,
not just the domestic abusers, & the studs
will eventually sign bigger contracts & win
a Super Bowl with other teams. Good for them,
right? We’re genuinely happy to see others
succeed where we can’t. Vicarious victory
mixed with a healthy dose of imposter
syndrome mortared & pestled in a valley of
missed opportunities. But hey, on the bright
side of the ledger, we finally got rid of our
decades-old racist baseball mascot & part
of me never understood why the players,
(money) mostly minorities, (money) never
(money) refused to wear that Wahoo crap
(money) & look, many of us do recognize
now that it’s definitely not cool to blame
the multitude of victims for the sins of
the master’s money. I mean John D. Rockefeller
got his start here & other than the wake
of bloody busted union heads he left at the gates
of his refineries & the fact that there’s an entire
board game which memorializes his maniacal
attempt to monopolize, he wasn’t too bad.
Not the kind of guy who’d buy you a drink
at the corner public house, like most of us
shot & a beer Clevelanders, but I’m sure
he's got a lot of other things on his gold-plated
plate right now, given his champagne taste
actually coupled with a champagne budget.
Even if all ashes look like ashes & all dust,
dust, & what’s it matter anyway because at most,
if we don’t gum up the works sooner, this ball
of dirt is only going to be around for another
1.5 billion years. Quantum physics & geologic
time = the great nullifier of all of us. This is
to say, you’ll get over it. And we Clevelanders
can keep making excuses for others who don’t
need us to make excuses for them because
excuse-making is in our goddamn water.
We’re annually nationally ranked for our
cursing prowess, but I’m not sure what
committee decides that. Likely some
bitch-ass-motherfuckers. Our basketball
team actually won a ring when our area-
born-&-raised Chosen One chose to leave
on national TV & then reunited, said he
was sorry, groveled back, gave us a ring
that was better than the makeup sex, only
to leave again. Cleveland: the land of being wanted,
but only for a little while
. But let me assure you
that we’re not the jealous or grudge-carrying
type, unless your name is John Elway, Michael
Jordan, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or that state
up north. Or if you’re Irish. Or Italian.
Or Greek. Or Slovakian. Or any number
of other small enclave communities who
hold those grudges almost as well as we
hold our alcohol & penchant for never
quite saying what we really want to say.
If you’re into that kind of thing, we do have
an internationally award-winning orchestra
& late-Victorian Age opulent theater district,
even if it’s only mostly the out-of-towners
who can afford tickets. Most of us have collars
that are too blue & we sometimes forget how
to tie a tie. The incessantly rumpled suitcoat
& unkempt hairdo of the Senior Senator from
the East Side, who’s delightfully well-read
& just progressive enough to still reach both
sides of the aisle, might be our ideal model—
if looks didn’t matter for a model & the
downstate conspiracy theorists stayed quiet
in their mother’s basements.  If you’re into
that kind of thing, we’re the birthplace of
Rock-n-Roll & the museum has such uplifting
exhibits as John Lennon’s glasses he was murdered
in in New York, just off Central Park. Sure, they’re
still blood-spattered, but so are most of us,
& like us, they are still pretty damn cool,
if you’re into that kind of thing. And our
world renown Natural History Museum
has all kinds of bird skins in an elaborate
dusty cabinet-file system in its dank basement,
& if you know the right person, you can
attend a workshop there, don some latex
gloves & stuff the birds’ bellies with cotton,
making them pregnant with meaning again,
filling their eyeholes with more cotton,
nothing but blind dead bird eye whites staring
at you so that you want to handcraft little head
bandannas to make their creepiness a little
less weird, because not all our creeps are
super weird. Sure, like any wanna be metropolis
we’ve had our share of serial killers, but most
of us want to stay sexy & not get murdered.
Exhibit A: Superman was born here. And Paul
Newman, Tracy Chapman, & Tom Hanks
will testify on our behalf. Life tip: it’s always
good to know a few folks who will testify
on your behalf. And we do have a couple
of the top, first-rate health care systems
in the world, even if our history of rust,
pollution, & carcinogens are likely
the main reasons for needing a top hospital
system. Or two. After all, is it really all
that random that a solution to a problem
(i.e., a hospital), would pop up & achieve
popstar fame in an area that doesn’t demand
a need for solutions to said problems?
We’ve an awesome national park & our
Metropark system that forms a green jewel
necklace around the city is rated among
the tops in the nation. True story. Ask any
Clevelander. If/when they aren’t busy at
the Christmas house made famous by that
movie that fetishizes a detached but still
kinda kinky light up leg in a fishnet stocking.
Oooh la la. Fra gee lay. Most of us don’t think
we talk with accents. Cuyahoga, you guys.
You best put your pop cans on the tree lawn
for recycling, & our overly elaborate
highway system has been under construction
since construction started after the last
world war, & literally everything is
20 minutes away except the airport,
& somehow now everyone in every
neighborhood is now in the landing pattern.
Yes, we can be smug enough that we try
to neighborly talk over the revving engine
of the landing 747 as we share that chat between
mowing crisp spearmint lines into our front
lawns. Small pride in, Gosh, doesn’t the grass
look great this spring?
No yeah sure, I agree,
the team’s really got a shot at finally winning
next year. We’ll brag on our yards & parks all
day long. Given our obesity rate, we won’t actually
use said greenspaces all day long, but hey they sure
do look pretty. We’re also superstars on bragging
about what we lack. As in deserts, hurricanes,
earthquakes, elitism, & façades. We’re future
Nobel Prize winners at ignoring what brings
us shame, as in almost any difficult conversation,
as in the purposeful repurposing of all those
goddamn parish priest child molesters,
the white flight, the voter repression &
mortgage redlining, & the Hough race riots.
But look, not unlike the t-shirt crowd in the early
bird overcrowded lobby of the Olive Garden,
When you’re here, you’re family. And family doesn’t
always get held accountable. We & we alone
can make fun of our siblings, but don’t you
dare try it, unless you want a pow, a sock
right in the kisser, wise guy. Elliot Ness didn’t
make a name for himself on our streets by
coincidence. And while most of our college
graduates do, in fact, end up leaving the state,
& while our city planners still haven’t figured
out how to take advantage of a waterfront
destination like Chicago, NYC, Paris, London,
or heck most global cities with a port or a river
running through them, & even if our name
literally means land of things that break apart,
it’s still home, & I think, by heaven, our city
as rare, as any she belied with false compare.
So, raise your glasses— don’t worry,
we got most of the lead out of the pipes
long ago—to Cleveland! Land of thank-
fucking-god we’re still upstream from Detroit.

Inspired by “Ave Maria” by Frank O’Hara (1964), My Favorite Murder Podcast, A Christmas Story (1983), and “Sonnet 130” by William Shakespeare (1609).


Anxiety Mascot

Given my prowess at recreational
anxiety, I’m thinking of starting
an anxiety club team, eventually
accumulating enough points to earn
promotion to a semi-pro division,
& eventually fanatics & hooligans
will be obsessed with wearing
our kits, brand-name cereal
sponsor emblazoned across
the chests & choosing our players
first for their upcoming season’s
fantasy league draft. Our riddled
squad will spawn blogs & websites
& Twitter accounts & parody Twitter
accounts, maybe even someday,
like the Savannah Bananas,
we’ll be ridicule-slash-honored
on SNL, if/when it gets good again.
The fact is most of us hope
to pass on only our good traits
to our kids. My three have yet to
thank me for their combustible-
rocket-fuel anxieties. As when
the house no longer whispers
There must be more money & has
moved on to 3am comet trails of
I finally have the perfect comeback
& I wonder if that kid from 6th grade
is still mad at me & what about this,
what about this,
& what about this?
The quickest path to human-slash-
wild-animal conflict is A-to-B-
straight-up feeding wild animals,
either purposefully or accidentally,
as in not securing rubbish containers
or leaving food offerings at shrines
outside the village & soon normally
human-shy animals will take
a risk to get more of that food,
gradually moving toward
the town’s center as offerings
subside, so the wild animals
stalk in toward the townspeople’s
doorsteps as shyness becomes
trained comfort & comfort becomes
trained fearlessness & fearlessness
unleashes natural aggression &
aggression means people die.
They’re GRRRREAT! a slogan
for both cartoon tigers & real &
now well-fed tigers.
As with
wild animals, with wild anxiety,
the line between adorable &
deplorable changes based on
what side of the barbed wire
barrier you’re on, & to suggest
that We’re all a tad bit zooey
anyway, so let’s get Prozac in
the water supply
… well that
undermines the fact that many
are for-real fighting like hell
to free their one foot that’s
already caught in the trap.   


+ Inspired by “The Rocking-Horse Winner” by D.H. Lawrence (1925) and Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach (2021).