Poems by Thomas Michael McDade

Button Sucking

She stands
on a rock
and places
her electrode
nipples on mine
as though a shock
of youth is due
me but embrace
is as far as
the treatment goes.
Under stars
that read
like an EKG
we’re in
a Japanese
so still
I imagine us
in a transparent
and moralists
the ancient
of nipples
from short
circuit or sin.
The goldfish
cast their vote
when a sudden breeze
drops her blouse
and my shirt
into their pool —
they suck
on our buttons.

Thomas Michael McDade

Lucky Water

A brisk Manhattan
dawn a mongrel leads along
the tallest beauty in the borough.
She’s a lofty drug that jolts
our eyes past ever shutting.
Day’s first caffeine fixes
hit the sidewalks steaming.
Rolling donuts powder shoes
and no man here feels spoken for.
When she lights a cigarette
her hands enshrine the flame
as fervently as if she’s praying
all her fans would just drop dead.
Her brown hair dusts
a T-shirt as white as salt
for our wounds
and her braless breasts erase
the lettering across her chest.
Even newsstand headlines fade!
Suddenly, she vaults up
steep stairs and ducks
into a brownstone,
embracing Fido.
Left envying
the lucky water
in her tall shower,
we imagine
that trusty mutt
her rangy jeans,
and awarding scraps
like Purple Hearts to us.

Thomas Michael McDade

Flat Roofing

The best job was tending
the old black kettle
on wheels where
tar chopped
with a hatchet
like dehydrated
licorice simmered.
The flat roofing
trade called it soup.
There was a spigot
to fill five gallon pails
for hoisting with rope
and pulley for mopping
over tarpaper and nails
and silver disks securing it.
Burlap bags of gravel
for raking followed
and the sound of it
spreading could
lullaby a kettle tender
and soup was famous
for catching fire.
Punishment was chipping
up old roof with what the trade
delighted in calling an idiot bar
right to your soup singed face.

Thomas Michael McDade

Tap Shoes

The produce peddler
hired Project kids
for a buck and a half a day.
The teacher who ran
the playground
said he exploited us,
but there was no money
to be made playing
checkers or horseshoes.
Besides the cash
everything on the truck was free,
even cherries.
A kid had to be careful
not to get the shits.
Sweet corn was the big sell,
fifty cents a dozen,
in the better neighborhoods.
Some kids who had never
been in a home
other than a Project
apartment loved it
when a housewife
invited them in.
The peddler preached
about stealing
from those houses,
but no one would have dared.
Christ, anybody could
have run us down,
our sneakers like tap shoes —
so heavy with silver.

Thomas Michael McDade


Working for Jack,
I didn’t miss the slap
of a paintbrush
in the least when he took
an autumn roofing job.
Both wife and daughter
of the house were
lookers and out back
planting flower bulbs.
I was thinking of
nail heads
nudging shingles
the following spring
like daffodils
pushing up dead leaves
when I noticed the ladies
sneaking glances at me.
I took my fantasies
to the bar where in
keeping with the season
they spiraled
like sassafras foliage
outside a maximum
security prison.
A painter is more
productive than a roofer
Jack preached,
since for the most part
he faces his work and his eyes
are less likely to wander.
Drinking to me
he confessed that thanks
to him the gardeners thought
I was a felon out on work release.

Thomas Michael McDade

Juice Bottle

Flynn is 80 and has never paid
more than $100 for a car,
never insured one either.
His latest is a ‘78 Belvedere.
Flynn’s eyes are bad
but risky driving beats boredom,
Meals on Wheels his only visitor.
His wife doesn’t know him anymore,
stays with the daughter.
Strikes Flynn the Plymouth
is the color of an old zipper tab
parting teeth like tension
as he pulls away at 10 miles per hour.
V.A. is going to rip open his chest again
to service the pacemaker that’s idling
as bad as the car.
Drivers cuss and beep but Flynn doesn’t care.
He peeks at the mirror,
hopes as many vehicles in his funeral procession.
At the Indian Lounge,
he honks his horn until the bookie storms out.
Flynn cuffs $20 on a horse at Saratoga
and mutters to himself he could live
with dying owing that son of a bitch.
Before Flynn leaves to buy a Black Label quart
he’s not supposed to drink and chop suey
he’s not supposed to eat,
he enjoys a Dutchmaster
he’s not supposed to smoke.
The diuretic kicks in on schedule.
Flynn grabs an old prune juice bottle
from the back seat and pisses
the piss of a man who never paid more than $100
for a car or bothered to insure even one,
never had an accident.

Thomas Michael McDade


About A.J. Kaufmann

Poet, lyricist, songwriter. Founding member of Säure Adler.
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