Two Poems by Mark Vinz, 1980s




The Former Student


Even from the corner booth

you notice something familiar

in the bartender's eyes.

"Don't you remember me?"

The former student speaks,

reminds you he still hates to read

the kind of books you teach.


At the lake he's the one with muscles

and the dripping tan,

the irritated waitress on the midnight shift,

the mechanic who bludgeons you

with words like compression ratio and solenoid.


A nudge, a pointing finger, and a stare,

as if you can't survive the space

outside your office walls--

he does your taxes, fixes every leak,

loads your groceries, helps you to your seat.


When you visit the clinic for the final check

on your vasectomy

he's the one in charge of sperm samples,

the teller who sniffs your paycheck,

the headwaiter leering like a fish

at the holes in your socks.


Alone at last in the parking lot

you belch and sigh and scratch.

Guess who steps out from behind a parked car.



first published in College English, reprinted in

Mixed Blessings © 1989 by Mark Vinz



For Friends Who Send Poems


In with the blare of circulars,

tidy notices in anonymous envelopes,

lurid promises of fortunes to be won,

there is a small package with my name on it,

light seeping from tears in the wrapping.

For a moment, everything stops:

I turn a book of poems over in my hands,

fingering the sheen of the cover,

the curve of each letter.

I see a face beside a window, expectant,

looking up with the thinnest smile,

and at that moment I remember

just how unfaithful I am:

I will abandon each page that

calls me to one of my own;

it may take years before I finish reading.

Then I see another face by the window,

my face, and I know again

that what we give, we get back,

what we lose, someone else will find for us,

and what is sent out will stay

beyond all finishing and forgetting.



from Mixed Blessings © 1989 by Mark Vinz