Tag Archives: Wayne F. Burke

The Fruit Market

by Wayne F. Burke

I got sent to work
at the Fruit Market
on the Chelsea-Everett line
where I sat in a shack
and checked-in trucks
entering and leaving.

I wore a sky blue cop uniform.

One day before work
I stopped in the hotel-bar
across the street from the market
for a quick one
and realized,
after I entered
that everyone in the joint had suddenly
become quiet
and I drank my beer quickly
and left.

During the shift a truck driver
and his wife
came up to the shack window
and he told me they were from
and that they had gone into the hotel-bar
across the street
looking for a room to rent.

An old guy wearing a soiled fedora
and a self-effacing woman
cut from out a Grant Wood picture.

“I didn’t think they let things like that
go on in Boston,” he said.

“Things like what?”

He nodded to the hotel-bar.
“That place is a whorehouse!”

I lost that job soon
while putting up the American flag
on the pole behind the shack

I unthinkingly let the flag touch the ground
and the boss man—
a red faced prick who looked like he had not
shit in a month
fired me.


The Stripper

by Wayne F. Burke

I worked security

and sat at a desk

in the lobby

of a hotel

in Kenmore Square

and had people

sign in & out.

A black girl who

worked in the Combat Zone

and who looked like Hayley Mills

the actress

came in early A.M.

and would lean over

the desk to sign in

and I would look down

her dress

and she thought it funny

but I did not

and one morning she

asked me to let her into

her room because she

had lost her key

and we rode up in an elevator

lit by her broad smile

and I opened her door

and said “there you go”

and she gave me an angry

look as she went inside

and I was troubled afterward

until I realized what the look

meant and what I had missed

but there was no going back

and I had to endure

her bitter redress

in the mornings,

but I never did

stop looking.


by Wayne F. Burke

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, outside

The Mug & Muffin restaurant

a guy wearing a pork pie hat was

singing “Sixteen Tons”

for spare change

as another guy

over by the newspaper kiosk

poured gasoline from a can

over his head

then asked passersby for a match

and some jackass gave him one

and some waitress screamed

and the guy with gasoline was


and as I moved ahead

against a tide of liberals


as if for life

a girl

with terror-dazed eyes

ran into my chest,

and the guy,

pinned to the ground,


“I want my rights!”

as if

lighting himself on fire

in public

was one.


Seat 27-B

by Wayne F. Burke

we are at twenty-seven thousand feet
there is an old lady on my right
she is chewing and fidgeting
maybe saying her prayers
she becomes self-conscious whenever I look
across her to see out the window
on my left is an asshole
with a suit on, Mr. Spic and Span
he looks like the MC of JEOPARDY!
he is invisible, does not want to be
touched or looked at or acknowledged
in any way
he reads the New York Times
he had taken possession of the armrest
I am stuck
in the middle
and without a newspaper
or a prayer.


In Praise Of

by Wayne F. Burke

the beautiful Sheila O’Ryan
10th grade English teacher
she was from somewhere else
flew in on a space ship
with her long lovely legs
dangling; she praised my
writing and read it out-loud
to the class; she had graduated
from Bryn Mawr or maybe
Smith, summa cum laude
she told us–whatever that meant–
and could speak Old English
and did we want to hear some?
Sure we did.
All the guys sat up front
and Schlonski, an offensive tackle
kept dropping his pencil to try
and look up her dress
which I hated him for
to me she was special
like a double rainbow
or solar eclipse
and her praise was something
I needed
something I did not get from anyone else
except coach
who only gave it
whenever I knocked someone’s head off
on the field.



by Wayne F. Burke

The moon is on fire tonight
and the walls of this room
are alive with
rivers flowing
and vegetables growing
and lovely shadows and snow
in black and white like
TV in the 60’s
and the radio is on to
a Springsteen song
“can’t start a fire”
and I have a fire
in my pants
that can’t be extinguished
keeps burning me at night
I get up and jump into the tub
but the fire regenerates
smolders as I sleep
and in the morning
a new scar
I got
to go with
the old one
down the middle
of my heart.


Pseudo-Artists and Gigolos

by Wayne F. Burke

I lived with Steinman and Arturo
in a house in Somerville. Steinman
was a poet and Arturo an artist
but neither made much art or
poetry but did make plenty of
girls–girls with names like
“Bubbles” and “Sunflower”–
in and out the door.
I slept on a mattress on the floor
and did not make any girls because
the girls were not interested in me:
I got drunk and high and woke in the
morning by myself and hung over
and pulled my unwashed janitor’s
uniform on and caught the number 10
bus into the city, stuffed like a toe in
a sock, another foot in the race, sweating
and feeling bad, ready to puke as I pushed
a vacuum cleaner, set up chairs, trashed…
I climbed stairs to the roof of the hotel to
read or sleep. I was the only white guy until
Frank got hired: I liked the black guys better.
Frank had dead eyes, a broad plane of a face
and he hated “niggers.” One of the blacks,
Cooley, hated “honkies,” especially me. He was
happy as shit the day he said that the boss wanted
to see me. I knew what was coming, so did Cooley.
Being fired was no big deal: hell, I was an artist not a