Saturday, March 7, 2015

My Night With Jeffrey Dahmer by Mark Wunderlich

My Night With Jeffrey Dahmer

—like any night spent out in a bar—this one
doused in the pall of neon, 1989, Formica,

brushed metal and the spin of sound in the club,
while downstairs in a darker bar, where the older men

enjoyed each other's company and where I had gone
to cool off, a man stood next to me

and knocked my beer to the floor, so sorry—he was
very sorry—hand on my arm as I bent to pick up

the bottle, one hand on my arm, the other signaling
to the bartender, holding up a finger then pointing

to the empty I proffered, put on the wood counter,
bottle which the keep swept away, replaced,

a cold, green glass already sweating a bit, beading
in the heat of the basement.

He was a stranger, older than I was by a decade or more,
blond and mustached, big glasses—some farmer's son—

a bit out-of-date, stuck as he was in the country,
a man driven in to the capital to spend a night

among others of his kind, away from his mother's kitchen,
the chilled hum of the bulk tank, and the cows

whose needs were at the center of a life spent in their service—
but no, he was from Milwaukee, he said, though to me

his words were unimportant—so sorry, let me, I'll get you
a new one, let me buy you one,

and so he took out his wallet and handed over his dollars,
and I suppose I looked to see

if he had left a tip since I always look for this,
having done already the work of service

in which you depend on the manners and guilt
and sense of custom of those you attend, their

generosity, their goodness, their notion
of what is normal and right, what to offer to others

in exchange for their help, their attentiveness, here
let me buy you a beer, so sorry for my clumsiness,

let me put this hand on your arm, do you live here,
are you at the university, do you like the music,

did I tell you my name?—his questions the questions
of any curious man talking to a farmer's son

in a bar in Madison, Wisconsin, asking my name which I withheld,
my name which I keep lodged between my teeth,

under my tongue, in the pocket of my clavicle,
in the scar on my eyebrow, in my belly,

in the sack of my scrotum, in my head, my hand, my arm
which he touched lightly, my mouth, my teeth, my tongue

which began to move, unlock, give up its wariness, give in
to say my name is Mark. What's yours?

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