Richard Stevenson

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 114 in 2007.

To one Joan Hale, forty-year-old red head.
Not the sharpest tool in the shed, perhaps,
but loyal and better than you ever deserved.

You beat and verbally abused her,
but could be attentive, even adept
between the sheets, to hear her tell the tale.

Became a born-again Christian,
attended church regularly to create
the Mr. Suburban Clean Machine persona

you so desperately needed to help
keep the feds and local heat
at bay, and she trusted you, bought

the endless shovels full you spread
about the need for car rentals in your
new construction trade. You’d turn the corner

any day, make the business a success,
for hadn’t you always come up with cash
when you really needed it? you said.

Joan became the business secretary,
had a good head for figures, could always
convince the customers drunken hubby would

pay the bills. Even got pregnant,
moved you into a low-rent apartment
where the welfare moms made life pleasant

and you would find it suitable for
your own purposes, could feel a cut
above and find lots of kids easy to impress.

Just like a kid’s piggy bank, eh Cliffy –
all you have to do is smash it with a hammer
to get a little pocket change and get your end wet.