Change and crumpled bills
emptied from pockets
tally a buck seventy-five short
of what Karl's brother demands
for profit on a six-pack.
lectures the under-aged on risk and reward,
cops who sting buyers barely older
than the fifteen year olds parched
for dizzying anarchy of beer and weed.
Karl's brother's spurned clients
prowl alleys, share a stub of reefer
burnt close to the roach,
and spill onto an asphalt lake;
puddles of ice reflect fires,
burning at the monster's foot.
The farthest fire warms Karl's uncle
shivering with others, signs cast down
like a dragon's scales, and mantra
denouncing low wages, absentee tycoons,
forgotten on lips demanding to be thawed
by whiskey flask they pass among themselves.
The factory lies silent, fire stolen from
its belly glows inside barrels
warming strikers' midnight vigil
against darker evils,
but not too dark for steelworker's fingers
to mine his pockets: quarters shine
in bronze light, bills crackle
like blazing sticks.
Entrepreneur at age twenty
slides his profit across a counter,
bartered for cigarettes and Trojans.
In a corner garage, shielded from wind,
Karl lords over beer, dispensing lip-stinging
Bellies stoked, buzz on,
belch a reefer haze.