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Three Poems by Mark Barkawitz September 8, 2010

Posted by vscorpiozine in Uncategorized.



Mark Barkawitz

sitting comfortably in
a tubful of steamy water,
sipping a cold beer,
i read my former teacher gerald
locklin’s little red chapbook,

the iceburg theory & other poems.
halfway through, i come across
the poem, “sedation time.”
gerry is having trouble falling
asleep in his hotel room,

so he checks the tv
for a movie
“to relax in front of.”
he considers a noir classic
and a supernatural thriller,

but isn’t sold on either.
“his final option is entitled ‘zipperface.’
one star.  he doesn’t read the description.
just reaches for the sleeping pills.”
now to most readers,

this is probably just a funny punchline.
but i’m spraying beer out my nose
because i helped write that piece-of-crap movie!
specifically, i was the fourth of six writers,
and can’t believe it was ever released,

even if only on some obscure cable channel.
it had been my first writing job after college.
five grand for a complete rewrite.
the producer condemned my draft
as “dyke bullshit” for its strong female protagonist.

two writers and multiple drafts later,
the producer had his bondage/slasher script.
the best things i can say about the movie
are that i got paid and had the foresight

to have my name removed from the credits.
because you never know
when some former teacher
you still hope to impress
will run out of prescription drugs.


    it’s the end of the day
    and i’m about to climb into
    my truck parked on a downtown
    street in los angeles,

    when from behind i’m approached
    by a man about my age.
    blackened with street dirt,
    he wears an old coat and pants

    and one holey shoe.
    “spare a few bucks?”
    smiling his gap-toothed smile,
    he breathes stale wine at me.

    “a few bucks?” i offer him
    some loose change from my pocket.
    he takes it, grudgingly,
    and stares back at me.

    “why you look so mean, man?”
    he asks.  “like my father.”
    i don’t have an answer for him
    but he backs away anyway

    so i can get into my truck
    and drive away from him
    and his filth and his stale-
    wine breath and his accusations.

    passing another panhandler
    on the freeway on-ramp,
    the question is painted
    like the annoying graffiti

    on the traffic signs around him.
    why you look so mean, man?
    i shift into another gear.
    like my father.

    i remember him, yelling.
    and me, yelling at my kids.
    i look into the rear-view mirror.
    why you look so mean, man?

    like my father.
    i don’t know why.
    i keep driving.
    i don’t know.


    i once got dumped
    with my head still
    between a woman’s legs.

    “there’s someone else,”
    she said.
    my tongue stopped;

    my eyes opened.
    through the underbrush,
    between two peaks,

    i saw her face—
    like her words—
    chiseled in stone.

    -Mark Barkawitz


    Mark Barkawitz has earned local and national awards for his fiction, poetry, essay, and screenwriting.  His work has appeared in newspapers (L.A. Herald-Examiner, Pasadena Star News & Weekly, Conscience), magazines (Arroyo Seco Journal, University Mag., Simply 4 Pets, Senior Class), literary journals and anthologies (Abraxas, Sojourns, Zyzzyva, Blank Gun Silencer, Fingerprints, Paws & Tales, Sport Literate, Mediphors, Me Three, Illness & Grace-Terror & Transformation, Unhoused Voices: Granting Change for the Homeless), underground ’zines (Inky Blue, Monkeywire), and is posted on numerous websites (sportliterate.org, flatmancrooked.com, thirstforfire.com, farmhousemagazine.com, voidmagazine.com, chimaeraserials.com, soulscribe.com, common-line.com, censoredpoets.blogspot.com, chicklitreview.org, halvingababy.com, comedyquick.com, thewriteplaceatthewritetime.org, broowaha.com,).  He wrote the screenplay for the feature film, “Turn of the Blade” (NorthStar Ent.), has taught creative writing classes at community college level, coached a championship track team of student/athletes, and ran the 2001 L.A. Marathon in 3:44:42.  He lives with his wife, has two kids, and occasionally breeds a litter of golden retriever puppies (Woof Goldens) in their Pasadena, CA backyard.




    1. vscorpiozine - November 3, 2010

    What a great poem! I’d forgotten about it over the years, but it came back as soon as I saw the word “zipperface.” You developed the whole thing beautifully. Anyone should be able to appreciate it, though you and I of course relate to it best of all. All the details about your “contributions” to the final script add a great sense of Hollywood irreality to it. I’m sure glad you recalled my attention to it. Now, if John Candy hadn’t made his damn “blue VW movie” . . .

    Gerry Locklin


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