Robert Klein Engler

For Da Man Who Invented Da Finger

So, I’m pushin’ my shopping cart down
35th Street in Council Bluffs, Iowa,
when dis crazy dude in an Escalade or a
Promenade, or WTF almost runs me down

wit my cart full of groceries. Now, I pushin’
my cart cuz it’s easier dat way and I ain’t
as strong as I used to be. But he, he don’t
even look. It’s like I don’t count or I’m

invisible  or somethin’. Now, I never stole,
nor robbed, nor had another man’s wife,
nor did I ask to be here, but I am here and
I done da best I could workin’ at da UP

for thirty years; and now I gets my check
every month and helps out at da church
when I can, and den dis dude, he cut me
off with my groceries and I had to pass

up da steak at Hy-Vee for da pork, but dats
OK, but what’s not OK is dat dis asshole
don’t even look. He just drives off.
So, what else can I do short of blowin’

his sorry ass away wit my shotgun,
‘cept give him da finger. And give him
da finger I do. Straight up from da middle
of my hand, right up to heaven, and if

anything, it points to da ignorant assholes
of da world. Praise da Lord for da finger.
Let Mr. Escalade see dat righteous judgment
in his motherfuckin’ rearview mirror.


(an emancipated sonnet)

It’s summer on Bell Avenue across from Strand’s Coal Yard.
We sit on the stairs and wait for the streetlight down the block
to snap on. We see the moths make their bacchus dance
around the glow, and we see more stars than ever because
the night is clear over us. My sister wants to believe one
of the stars above the water tower is our father, who died
on the couch in the stuffy front room last May. He is looking
down on us. I wonder if he sees me and Billy, who lives
three houses down, sit and talk and talk, while I lean back
against the wrought iron banister that leaves a crease on my
skin, until my brother’s bedroom light goes off and Billy
and I are alone, except for a car that goes down 63rd Street,
and then Billy returns his warm hand up my leg and asks
if I will go back to the gangway, where it is darker still.

All The Same Off Highway 6

So, here I am in Iowa. Who knew?
Just drive over the “wide” Missouri,
you know, the river they sing about
in one of those pioneer songs where
she morns for her unfaithful lover,
only to realize that even here, after
a heavy summer rain the river swells
and rushes; even here, it’s the same
fickle heart everywhere, the same
wonder why this one and not another.
She calls his bluff in Council Bluffs

I bet you didn’t know that as we age
we may develop X-ray vision, we see
through the lies of politicians and
the promise that swells from the flesh.
Put forty years on a face and you’ll
see why many laugh at the folly of love.
If he had not foolishly tied on the rope
I’d be down on some Louisiana bayou,
where the Missouri can take you,
and hear the truth Sidney Bechet
sings, “I had it, but it’s all gone now.”

See that couple that exits the Hy-Vee.
They lug plastic bags filled with food,
and one bag with wine. You can tell
by the outline wine bottles leave
in a bag, the same way our parents
impress a shape on us. That’s why we
know they will go back to her house
and he will fire up the grill and cook
rare burgers and drink the wine,
and then, when the sun goes down,
they will fuck hard on the back porch.