The Man Who Called from Inside the House

Yeah, I was the one who told her
the call came from inside the house and
that she’d better check on the children.
I was playing both roles while hiding
under one of the beds with a phone
and a voice-changer thing. The kids,
we bribed with candy, made them
lie still, a few little dabs of sauce—
pizza sauce—on their pajamas
and on their faces. And then
what was supposed to happen is
that I was supposed to jump out
with two extra-large pizzas, plus
a certificate for free pizza for life.
She was the big winner, see—
it was all a special promotion,
a way to try to get some attention.
You have to go viral these days,
they call it, to get anyone to notice.
But the whole thing backfired.
She saw the kids and the sauce,
and she didn’t wait around for
anything to be explained, or
anything to be given to her.
She ran out that front door,
and I don’t think anyone ever
saw her again. After a while,
the kids and I shrugged, ate
both the pizzas. We were all
hungry, and it seemed like
the best thing to do then,
under the circumstances.
The Babysitter and the Man Upstairs


The Woman with the $250 Cookie Recipe

This is how I have $250 worth of fun.
Neiman-Marcus will regret the day
they ever messed with me, I tell you.
Let’s make cookie after cookie
after cookie, stick it to all the snobs
of the world, with their Zodiac Rooms
and their popovers and cups of broth,
everything fancy and secretly expensive.
“I wish you wouldn’t do this,” she said,
the woman in the accounting department.
I just laughed right into the phone, then
made a batch of cookies, the first
of so many. Revenge, a bite at a time,
112 and 112 and 112 more each day.

(Costs a) Fortune Cookie


The Best Friend of the Girl with Spiders in Her Beehive

I told Lurleen, and her mama and daddy tried to tell her, too,
that no good would come of ratting her hair that high,
using all that hairspray. We all like a little bit of lift on top—
I do, too, even now—but Lurleen always did take things
a little bit too far. The shortest skirts, the tallest boots,
the highest hair. I told her she should at least take it down
and wash it now and then. She’d just laugh, light another
Lark cigarette. I thought maybe her hairdo would explode,
catch on fire someday. We all knew something would
happen. But what actually did happen—all them
baby black widow spiders hatching one day, biting
on Lurleen’s head as she screamed and cried, tried
to smack them, her beautiful tall tower of hair
just falling all around her, and all those little dots
of blood and smacked spiders on her shoulders—
well. That was something I’ll never forget, nor
anybody else around here, neither. I still think of it
every day now, when I take my comb and my Aqua Net,
look in the mirror, decide Maybe that’s high enough.

Spiders in the Hairdo/Tressed to Kill

Do you have an urban legend that you’d like to see made into a persona poem like this? If so, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!


The Husband in the Batman Suit

I still consider myself to be a very lucky man,
and whatever the neighbors saw, they saw.
What are we supposed to do now? Move away?
Slink in and out of our own home, our own bedroom?
Throw away a beautiful, custom-designed Neoprene suit
that has served me well—served us well—for two years?
It was two years ago that I finally told Donna what it was
I’d been dreaming about: the bat signal beamed onto
the wall, above our headboard, and me as her hero.
What man, 62 years old, doesn’t want to be a hero
to his wife, or to anyone? The world offers enough
chances to be weak, to be old. I have loved
being strong, being complicated, and I would
do it all again, being found like that, our neighbors,
the ambulance ride—I would do it all again,
for the chance to leap to her rescue, untie her.
My Donna. My knockout. My Vicki Vale for life.

Too Late the Hero


The Child Actor Who Played Mikey

The folklore is that I ate Pop Rocks,
the exploding candies, and I drank a soda
and my stomach blew up, just like
what people think will happen to birds
if you throw rice at a wedding.
But here I am, still John Gilchrist,
still alive, still enjoying Life
cereal from time to time, though
I have to pay for it at the store
just like anybody else. People
recognize me sometimes—
that’s why I carry a little flask
of Pepsi and a pouch of Pop Rocks.
I like to wake people up. I like
knowing that I still can.

Death of Little Mikey


The Woman Who Brought Home a Mexican Rat

But by that time, we were all attached to the poor little thing—
Chachi, we called him—even Henry, who thought I was crazy,
smuggling a dog over the border. Well, I guess I should say
smuggling a rat, though that sounds even crazier.
So I called up our son Jacob at school, because I know
he took a semester of Spanish. He found a rat fanciers’ club
in Guadalajara, and someone there stayed on the phone
with Jacob as he typed things into Google Translate
and told me what to tell the vet, who was looking at me
as if he wasn’t in the business of saving animals.
What’s the difference?, I say. Dog or rat? So what?
It was still the same little animal that fluffed up so nicely
after his bath, then settled down by my feet, snoring.
Aren’t rats nocturnal, anyway? To this day, I don’t really
know what Chachi was, though the rat meds did work—
once we wrestled a prescription out of that vet—
and he lived out the rest of a typical rat life, which is
too short. It’s been a year now, that he’s been gone.
Next week, I’m going to Tijuana again, shopping.

The Mexican Pet


The Hotel Housekeeper

They don’t pay me to care
what goes on in each room, so
I don’t know if it was true:


I just know it came off the mirror
pretty easy with lemon Pledge
(secret weapon—ask anyone),

which is good, because I have
wrist problems, shoulder trouble,
a bad back. We all do. So I looked

for a tip. There wasn’t one—just
bottles and shoes, maybe some
coke in front of the clock radio.

I cleaned everything up.
I changed the sheets.
I closed the door—

everything ready for the next
guest to take a nap or make love
or get AIDS. Like I said before:

They don’t pay me to care.

AIDS Mary (1994 version)


The Alligator in the Sewer

I’d rather be in Florida
among the cypress knees and egrets,
but all things considered, I’m doing
pretty close to all right.
I’ve had some babies down here,
you know, and sent them on their way
through the pipes and into people’s toilets.
It was fun to imagine their reaction—
my children and these people
regarding each other in the half-light
from the medicine cabinet or
the streetlamp outside. I know
bathrooms and how they work
because that’s where I was kept
before I became too big to be cute,
but not too big to flush. I lived
in some lady’s tub. It was decent—
she fed me chicken livers and some
kind of salad with marshmallows in it.
But after a while, as my claws scrabbled
on the porcelain and nothing ever changed
except that I got bigger, after a while
with no others of my kind and nothing
to do but eat, I began to plot my escape.
If that lady hadn’t flushed me, I was going
to flush myself. It’s a pretty good life,
no matter how I got here. I think I’ll stay.

Alligators in New York Sewers


The Man on the Tube

Get off at the next stop. That’s what I told her
when I saw a flash that she’d be the next one
with scissors in the back of her head. Poor girl
followed me as if she had no choice. Had to be
only 18, 19—pretty as anything, too. It was
hard to remember my role in all of this:
not a villain, but not really a hero, either,
not a pair of arms to faint into, or a
happily-ever-after writing itself in a pub
after it was all over. I was meant
to be just a face on the train, a mystery,
someone she’ll think about and thank,
silently, years from now, when she’s
working in her art studio, maybe, or
tucking in beautiful children not made
with me. So I disappeared like the train,
like the men with their dead prize,
like the scissors—all of us gone to
become a story, so she could live hers.

The Corpse on the Tube

Do you see what I’m doing here? 🙂 Do you have a favorite urban legend with a character I could embody next? If so, please share it in the comments — shorthand title, keywords, or general gist. Thanks!


One of the Elderly Women

To tell you the truth, it was Dolores,
not me, who wanted to bury that cat.
I just wanted to have a nice lunch and
rest my feet after all that shopping
at Dillard’s—you know, for bags
to put the cat in. That thief

did us a favor, before
she banged her head—
and now the poor soul
is sure to wake up with
a dead cat, nothing

else to show for it. I almost feel
like I should have given her my pearls,
just the costume ones, but it would have
been something. Something other than
a dead cat and a lunch uneaten, spoiled.

I saw it when it came out
as the thief was being lifted
onto the gurney; it was
chicken salad with grapes,

just the thing for lunch on a Tuesday
by yourself, alone in your booth
except for the shopping bags
beside you, still full of promise.

The Dead Cat in the Package