Matt Ullman

Rookie (9-22-1971 / Chicago)

Torque - Poem by Matt Ullman

A woman enters a grocery store, stands and cries in aisle 3
At the things she cannot afford: oreos, cheese crackers, and at
The end in the freezer case: a juicy sirloin roast. She puts
What she thinks she can on a credit card, sucking in

Her breath when the clerk reads the total. She leaves
In her gray rusty beater, succumbing to the mangled desire
To scrape the door of a new red pickup truck parked in the next
Space and a half. She fights greed, like the greed of that woman

Just walking behind her, snapping and popping her gum in rhythm.
Fights for the space she can have, between a wearied husband
And three hungry kids: the baby her own and the other two left
By a sister chased by a felony warrant. And a job she works ten hours

A day to make the minimum payments due each month. Tired with
Everything catching up to her, faster and faster, a bad head rush
Leaves her hating it all sometimes. She enters the church
By solemn design, one of the last, family in tow, hanging onto

Every word. She believes what the Pastor says is in the Bible.
Every dog will have his day, justice is in Heaven, peace will be
On earth when the Savior comes. Her name is Terri, or Jane or
Maggie, but when she becomes old, Maxine or Cheryl.

A “Just Married” sign is the secret flashed between their eyes,
Staying in Anywhere, USA, long enough to find the first
Convenience store. Then the silver glinting in the sun, and an apology
Behind the gun, requesting paper over plastic, because they really do

Care about the environment. And it’s certainly nothing personal
Against the cashier, he’s a poor soul roped into a bad situation
By an uncaring employer who’s insured anyway. Then off into the brilliant
Orange sunset, bags filled with pretzel rods, Diet Coke, steaks for their

Mini-grill, this year’s Iroc filled with gas. Don’t hate them because they’re
Young and beautiful, he a steel blonde piston shaped by a hunger and
She a ravishing redhead ex-Covergirl with bright green eyes and
A mind through which all things pass and are retained, like the

Optics of very fine crystal. It goes on like this for days, then the
Days turn into weeks, and time surrenders its meaning. One store
After another, here and there he takes a job: an oil field, road
Construction, a winery, cash only, please. Traipsing through the

Desert Nevada-Arizona-New Mexico-Texas, California behind them.
In fluid motion, bad situations could always be left and forgotten
If not for their excitement, and quietly building pride in having
Escaped, building exponentially, faster and faster, till they’ve

Created their own monsters. But there is always love, for each other and
For any unfortunates met along the way. She does not realize her own
Inner knowledge of fluid mechanics of the soul; working constantly on
Gears four and five, he sees nothing but his own destiny, starting one

Hundred yards before them. It’s a dog eat dog world they say, enticing
One from Heaven, a piece of ass gives birth from whence behavior comes.
The church of the mind wonders how it is to love the sinner and hate the
Sin, if one is defined by one’s actions. Good Reverend, what is sin again?

The highway is a place where people meet to talk, to do business, to
Create and build relationships, to entertain one another, to disseminate
Information, to work. Sometimes I think it only exists in my mind, this
Computer designed to big brother me into submission, into never

Leaving this room. One day long ago there used to be real highways, and
People used to go places and experience all of the senses. Drive or ride by
Trees, green grass, brown earth, stop and visit people and animals here
And there. And before that there were no highways at all, only more trees,

More green grass, more brown earth, more animals. And people knew
One another with an easy but respectful familiarity, and did not have to
Worry about having their throats slit while sleeping on the porch one hot
Summer night. Live and die in one town. Now it’s live and die in one

Town where no one can be trusted, umbilical cord still attached, an
Electronic lifeline. News of my death will be sent along when my pulse
Withers away into nothing, last digital transmission sending the signal it is
Time to terminate my account. And the earth shall inherit the meek.

So who goeth to heaven, and whom to Hell? It’s not that easy,
I think, as the Pastor’s wife nods her head in true sympathy with the
Woman complaining of too many blacks in her neighborhood. Score
One intolerance, One hypocrisy, right here in God’s own sanctuary?

The Pastor claims to find Biblical evidence that supports his political
Views that are against homosexuality, abortion, sex education, evolution, the
Seven dirty words, alcohol, tattoos, male earrings, black leather motorcycle
Jackets, deviant haircuts, etc., at the same time reading the words of Jesus our

Lord and Savior, the most loving and tolerant soul in history. Jesus taught in
Parables, so why take the Old Testament so literally? There is historical
Evidence for many things, including the Shroud of Turin and the Dead
Sea Scrolls, but didn’t God mean for us to reach just a little bit more?

There are at least 33,742 known sects of Christianity in the United States.
There are at least 33,742 interpretations of the Bible in the United States.
Pastor’s granddad taught that Ham and his descendants are black, forever
Distinguished by color and punished for the sins of their father. And people

Believed that horseshit, turning out to the tent in droves. And now in walk today’s
Bonnie and Clyde, taking a moment to rest and reflect. In walks Terri or
Maggie or Jane; who gets the eternal prize? Whom so good they call thee
Cracker Jack? Not up to us to guess or decide. I dream about the

Good pastor, in a women’s shawl, singing the Canadian national anthem.
The big shouldered money boys in their Sunday’s best, cheap suits of the
Finest primary colors, shine down the aisle like the organ grinder’s monkeys,
Turn up the torque for another round. And Jesus takes another sip of wine.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, December 11, 2006

Poem Edited: Wednesday, December 8, 2010

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