Marcus Wicker

Film Noir at Gallop Park, On the Edge

of suburbia in flux behind one of the town’s, count ’em, two

mega high schools. The sometimes-tended-to nature preserve

where green & green slide crisp between brisk handshakes,

where a middle-aged Jimmy John’s driver suddenly halts

his ‘98 Corolla, goes noiseless. Where the sun isn’t exactly

booming, but it’s Sunday morning & I’m in my feelings,

so I clop off a few paces, nice & easy-like. I mouth hello

to the loveable maintenance man. Hello,

loveable maintenance man I nod. He fusses with his

mustache, flicks it out in a full tilt wave. In the way

of mise en scène, I feel compelled to say it’s 2014.

I’m a black, American poet, newly thirty & middle class

for the Midwest. So far it’s the summer of two brothers

unarmed, erased, posterized. Two more & I live

my best days outside like this, under threat

of rain: me, my bad form & no one looking on

with the evil anvil of a hoisted eyebrow. The deceptive flip

of an A-line bob—hand readied to protect the old money

maker. Accordingly, smoke: a slinky Asian teen

makes his body into a nickel, wheels up the wide alley

between me & the trail’s opposite edge. Our shades, night-

slick, reflect one another—different frames

from about the same shelf. I catch myself for an instant

in his left lens & wonder was it the Rocky-look

I’m rocking? Was it the bare bones, bone-white, hooded

Egyptian Cotton track suit drawn tight around my head

like a swim cap? (It’s summer here.) Or the ox calves

teetering a chest somewhere between barrel & breasted,

depending on the wind, the Taylor Swift-red grin

of my diabolical office nemesis, or the moon

cycle, maybe anything? Fin—

In the director’s cut I’m the one being fatally

femme: I pretend to check my face in the rearview mirror,

pull a plume from a pinner & squeeze the trigger

on a can of lavender Febreze. I chase myself out the window

smarting every time someone flinches at the sight of me.

Metaphorically, I could only be the pitch dark

asphalt simmering in this parking lot. The fog lifting off

a black tar river, already gone. Though obviously, given

the opportunity, nay the luck—I’d play delivery boy,

even maintenance dude. Anything but walking dead

man. & I’ll be damned if I didn’t just run

all this way to tell you that. Fuck.




“Film Noir at Gallop Park, On the Edge” first appeared in The Nation, November 2016.