Strike Fires
by Patrick Meighan

    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.

    Street-corner entrepreneur
    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,
    barrel-contained,
    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
    metal cans.

    Bellies stoked, buzz on,
    young dragons
    belch a reefer haze.






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