The Starving Midwestern Artist

by George Thomas

Shame I brought to
a family name
my factory name,
employee of such-‘n-such
division and department name,
unskilled laborer sheep
bearing the indefinite
lay-off name. The trained flock
disapproves, those who
share this same name.

Six generations of Midwestern
Dutch kind of name, bestowed
to babies whose bodies glisten with
elbow grease as doctors ease them
from the wombs of seamstresses and
office receptionists.
This good German name
“those Germans are quite
the workers, ya know” name,
as said by Norwegian Minnesotans,
but the babe, though born with
dirt already caked under his
nails, had the fingers of a
pianist and not a butcher.

Aye, there’s the rub!

The father who could not cry
collected the dieseline sweat
of his brow and with it refilled empty
bottles in auto shop toolboxes,
where days puttered and the
revolutions of ceiling fans moved
faster than cars came in the lot.

The mother cried to cab drivers,
confessing her child’s
delusions of grandeur,
an idiom she had heard on
Soap Opera monologues,
emphasizing “grandeur”
as did Sergio the Spaniard
heartbreaker she adored
so so much on those
rainy Tuesdays.

And well, Uncles just called him gay.

Such is the price
for passion in flyover
country, hoping to
grow gardens
in gravel lots,
blossoms and
the fruits of
creative labor,
only for the batch
to be stomped on
by disgraced high school
quarterbacks that recall
their glory days on
Tuesday two-dollar-you-call-its
and Thirsty Thursdays, or the
unemployment line marches to
the liquor store, a succession
of heavy handed footsteps
by the boots of kin and
cigarette beggars,
all of whom
have inspired his words as
they have his escape, so that he
may make

a name for himself.