Lonely Larry, poem by Frank Reardon


Every­day Lar­ry walks into the lum­ber yard
with his head down due to years of bad posture.
His hair, fake or not, looks like a blond toupee,
and he twid­dles his fin­gers in mad circles
when he speaks. Mona, the cashier,
calls him "Lone­ly Lar­ry." She says it whenever
he leaves the room. "Lone­ly Lar­ry, poor-poor,
Lone­ly Lar­ry." Dur­ing the day Lar­ry is a lumber
mer­chan­dis­er and he takes his job very seriously
even if his cor­duroy pants are pulled up over
his bel­ly but­ton. He looks like a giant Weeble
most days, and he's a mas­sive bil­low­ing shit-talker
from years of love lost, every­day. While fas­ten­ing the Velcro
straps on his gray sneak­ers, Lar­ry likes to remind
me of his youth, how in his 20s he was a ladies' man,
a sure-fire chick mag­net. He says it was
all due to his over-use of cologne and gold chains.
I find it hard to believe, espe­cial­ly since his work apron
has his name paint­ed on it with large pur­ple letters
and bedaz­zled sil­ver rhine­stones, though he's done
a great job con­vinc­ing him­self of his prowess. When­ev­er Kayla,
the woman with the per­fect ass, the woman who can
speak per­fect French, says "hi," Larry's
fake deep voice turns high-pitched and nasally.
He's 60, but when­ev­er that French painting
struts by with her big black boots he turns
into him­self:  qui­et, ner­vous, per­vert­ed, the shy lit­tle boy.
At night Lar­ry is a quiz show genius, a Game Show Network
lunatic. Sit­ting in his father's old leather recliner,
he tries to solve puz­zles on The Wheel of Fortune
while suck­ing root beer from a straw. "Buy a vowel!"
he shouts as he twists off the top of an Oreo
so he can lick the cream filling.
"Why won't she buy a fuck­ing vow­el!?" he asks
his pur­ple and yel­low canary sit­ting in its brass cage,
but the bird nev­er replies, it just sits
on a perch rapid­ly mov­ing its head and chirp­ing a song.
Poor-poor Lone­ly Lar­ry, the game shows are over
and the sym­pho­ny has got­ten so cruel
with night songs that Lar­ry must go under his bed
and pull out the old box with the frayed card­board cover.
Inside: ancient com­ic books that he had saved since
he was a child. And with teeth clenched upon bot­tom lip,
he savors each action packed square,
each crime fighter's hero­ic action, each word floating
inside its car­toon bub­ble. The hands are weak, the sweat
is real, the fore­bod­ing feel­ing in the dark pulls
at lost eyes and sur­rounds him with panic.
Soon Lar­ry will climb into bed. "Got­ta get up at 4 a.m.
and do it all over again," he'll whis­per to himself.
It's the same thing each day and night, the perfect
hell on earth, reliv­ed day after day and night after night.
The per­fect assas­sin with the per­fect bullet,
inch­ing clos­er and clos­er by the sec­ond until it bur­rows in us all
and plants the great seed of denial.

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