Spurred on to Poetry
by Alan Berecka

Jim Spurr, poet laureate of Shawnee
picked me up from my hotel hours
before the open mic he had invited
me to. He told me we had plenty of time
to get some gambling in, so we rattled
around in his pickup until we parked
at the Potawatomis’ Grand Casino.

I had been to the Oneida’s Turning Stone.
My father dragged me there for something
to do every time I visited up home.
I never enjoyed it. Losing money stung
as we fed the jazzed up eight liners
programmed to reproduce randomness.
The joint was filled with old-timers,
and down n’ outers of every ilk,
gasping for hope and oxygen
in a thick blanket of cigarette smoke.
The scene reeked of desperation as everyone
sat etherized by flashing lights and hoped
their money held out until the mega jackpot
came knocking right behind Jesus and Godot.

Before we sat down at the machines,
I had a cold beer in my hand, and Jim
began filling me in on his system.
"First rule look for an IGT machine
because they payoff more; play machines
on the end of aisles because the casinos
want the newbies to see people winning
so those babies payoff more, find an IGT
on the aisle and buddy it’s better
than a novena at answering prayers."

Jim who’d leave now and then
to pump a machine of his own,
hung close most of the afternoon
cheering and coaching, "Good one;
you’re getting closer; time to bet big;
pull back a little on this one." Soon Jim
had me seeing patterns as the bells
and lights began to ring and flash hope
signaling the way home for Jesus and Godot.

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