Poetry from Leah Mueller

Leah Mueller is an indie writer and spoken word performer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of three chapbooks and five books. Her most recent book, ‘Misguided Behavior, Tales of Poor Life Choices’ was published in September, 2019 by Czykmate Press. Her new chapbook, ‘Death and Heartbreak’ (Weasel Press) is forthcoming in October, 2019. Leah’s work appears in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and other publications. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest.

Cocktails at Denny’s  

Eastern Oregon: cinderblock motel squats beside Denny’s.

Parking lot overflows with late-model automobiles.  

Attached bar: main social hub for a dusty farming town, vibrant oasis of liquor and conviviality.  

I sprawl outside, drape my arms across the leaf-strewn hot tub, assess my need for alcohol.  

Neon light flickers on and off: cocktails, no cocktails, then cocktails again.  

Emerging from water,

I pat myself dry with a scratchy motel towel. My body reeks of chlorine, its sharp, pungent acid penetrates my nostrils.  

Inside the lounge, I order a beer, remember a different motel bar. The Neon Cactus, located inside a Days Inn near Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Not a succulent in sight, except me. Men propped on barstools, eyeing my body like starving predators.  

One of them enjoyed an afterhours drink with me inside his room,  

then lamented, “We’ll never see each other again,” as I wandered down the hallway

towards my own bed,  

leaving him alone with his fantasies. I laughed and said, “Yeah. Too bad. That’s how it works.”  

So foolish, so lucky. Tonight, I am neither.

Eight years wear on my shoulders like an old sweater: ragged but comfortable.

I tell the bartender, “No, I don’t need another,” pay the check, leave him a small tip.

Long drive in the morning: my rented mattress sprawls before me  

with its worn comforter and promise of oblivion.

This night will be over before I know it, and no one will remember anything.

Aquatic Pipe Dream  

Faith has claws and scales, skitters across the bottom  

of oceans, emerges from depths while the  

tide recedes, sinks back when the moon changes signs.  

Faith walks along the shoreline, points to spots no one else can see:  

the disappearing horizon, last flash of light at sunset.  

In the distance, curve of earth, and beyond, sailboats  

in search of dry land, finding nothing but wave after wave.

Touch of Evil  

“Read my cards,” he said, stumbling drunk into the parlor, but the cynical fortune teller regarded him with uncharacteristic pity.  

She lifted her eyes from the pile of bank receipts, shook her head at the spectacle.  

Perhaps she remembered the man he’d once been, before the candy bars, the alcohol, and the henchmen.  

He demanded to know his future, but she refused to supply details.   She said, “You haven’t got any. Your future is all used up,”

and suggested a final detour,  

an unscripted exit towards a home he’d never be able to reach. He took the wrong route anyway, died fifteen minutes later.  

Nobody listens to the fortune teller, especially when the news is bad.   Though we ram against fate with sawdust horns, cover our bodies with leaves,

and hope our pursuers will never find us, in the end they always succeed.

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