Quincy Lehr

The Dark Lord of the Tiki Bar

I

Landing. As the air­plane ric­o­chets
against the tar­mac, he groans him­self awake
and stares past fences, let­ting loose the thought
of a dark-haired girl he met—or thought he met—
tits jig­gling as he took her from behind
(bod­ies gen­er­ate humid­i­ty
that merges with the air despite the fan).
Well, that was fucked! he thinks. A fucked-up dream
of some entrop­ic shit­hole far away,
a pow­er vac­u­um with a city square
and old hotels still slight­ly redo­lent
of some­one else’s colony across
an ocean that’s con­ve­nient­ly vast.
Mistah Kurtz, he dead—but in the end
if there’s a run­way, there’s a way back home.

And this is home, a bill­board sea of kitsch
along the access road—corrupted signs
and semi­otics. Pad Thai. An English pub.
Se habla Español. You’ll nev­er find
a bet­ter deal on brand-new fur­ni­ture!
He merges on the free­way, floors the ped­al,
and pen­e­trates the traf­fic, Cecil Rhodes
in Madras shorts seek­ing out a place
he some­times likes to go—a tiki bar,
a rel­ic of a pre­vi­ous cen­tu­ry,
an old deploy­ment, a beach bum on the Strand
haul­ing a met­al detec­tor. Fake grass roof.
Its Oriental peaks rise from the lot
and dom­i­nate the strip mall, while inside,
grin­ning humanoids carved out of wood
stare solemn­ly past tables of bam­boo
and toward the sprawl­ing bar. He saun­ters up
and orders a mai tai. Let the games begin.

II

Who’s that behind the bar? Minor C. Keith
    or some­one who would know
the way of the mixol­o­gist?
    These nap­kins need to go.
Their col­ors hint at hope. That’s not the point.
    If any­one would come
for rea­sons besides the usu­al,
    they would soon suc­cumb–
 
the strongest vows are bro­ken over ethanol
    and a steady stream of spooge.
March on the gueril­la road,
    end up anoth­er stooge
stuck drunk and stuck halfway across the world
    and through a cred­it line.
Repatriation’s such a bitch.
    The cock­tails, though, are fine.

Hungry Like the Wolf.” What time is lunch?
    Wake me if there’s a fire.
Where can I find the cen­tral square,
    where a gun for hire?
Where did I put my damn safari hat
    that goes with my white suit,
the but­ton-down that’s on my back,
    the jack­knife in my boot?
 
Who’s the blond-haired guy with pop-star looks
    lead­ing the cam­era crew?
I heard that they’re all Limey queers;
    their manager’s a Jew
hooked on coke (or so we peas­ants hear)
    and try­ing to live the dream
that’s far away from offices,
    “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’,”
 
and ele­va­tor music. Amateurs.
    Don’t they know the drift
of how it works when the tourists leave
    and the wait­ers go off-shift?
Another los­er with a Section 8
tries to drink it down
to where the fear’s anaes­thetized
and unmoored from its noun.

III

The fig­urine in brown might be a god
with anger lines in blue around his face
and a fea­ture­less gape of mouth. Across the bar,
his twin (or sim­u­lacrum) faces him.
A groan–equally inaudi­ble–
con­torts his mouth, a haka lodged like food
inside his wood­en throat. No mere three days
mark this cap­tiv­i­ty. No Easter comes
with the last call. The mut­ed god is trapped
with­in the sil­ver Ray-Bans of a man.
He’s sip­ping on a cock­tail as his gaze
search­es for a bit of tail but set­tles
on that goth­ic-look­ing dude with tats.

That guy’s the real thing–he’ll tell you so–
a “leg­endary muso” (aren’t they all?),
an alco­holic junkie with a thing
for Adolf Hitler. Much-mis­un­der­stood.…
Well, that was fucked. But no one turns away
as he goes on… and on to Crowley now,
per­haps LaVey. Chin-chin. Do what thou wilt.
I’ll have anoth­er zom­bie. Left-hand path,
a roadmap of tat­toos, apoc­a­lypse
in fad­ed t-shirt and black skin­ny jeans
and albums out on iTunes.
             Never mind;
his is the least of cults, a minor league
of mere aes­thet­ic malice–carnie crap.
Greater evils go by dif­fer­ent names.

Just ask the Ray-Ban guy with thin­ning hair
if you can drink the courage–he should know.
His gaze is an abstraction–or a law
like grav­i­ty or entropy behind
the sil­ver nul­li­ty. This is the stare
that napalms vil­lages or beck­ons girls
with fon­dled dol­lar bills, that traps a god
with­in the con­cave mir­rors of the eyes.

IV

Drink up; this place is threat­en­ing to suck.
The flash, iron­ic crowd
read about this in a guide.
Jesus Christ, they’re loud,
banal, and arriv­iste. Their lungs are pink;
their teeth are straight and white,
the less­er sons of greater sires
who rarely last the night.

You need to know the exits, note the crowd,
and real­ly case the room.
You need to see muz­zle flash,
    antic­i­pate the boom.
The gooks’ll get you oth­er­wise… old men,
for­got­ten, off their meds,
are heroes of the lat­er hours.
The young­sters in their beds,

the piece of ass who flounces with their drinks
don’t under­stand the call
of all the booze that hides inside the juice.
The knick-knacks on the wall
speak of some­where else, a place recalled
in flash­back, more or less.
Get us five clicks to the east.
Help us get to yes.

Help us now, you dotard, racist shits.
The “Greatest Generation”
is laid up and on life sup­port.
Gen X is on vaca­tion.
So that leaves you, the tedious Baby Boom,
the hip­pie and the vet,
the taintstain of an empire
that hasn’t tanked quite yet.

We know your sto­ry, know it all too well;
let’s hear it once again.
What’ll you cov­er up this time?
What will you explain
to cov­er your ass or maybe to show off?
Those were the glo­ry days.
Don’t you dare to skip your tab.
Someone always pays.

V

Consuela does the hulu–half bur­lesque,
half pas­tiche Hawaiian, with a splash
of Carmen Miranda in the mix. She sighs.
One brown skin’s like anoth­er. Veracruz
via East LA, she wound up here
despite her dreams. (Perhaps because of them?)
She longed to be a dancer, but shit hap­pens,
try­outs get blown, and men can be such jerks.
Know what I mean? You take what you can get.
A gig’s a gig; one dollar’s like anoth­er–
even if it’s cod Pacifica,
a fake grass skirt and bra, a dull rou­tine
of thrusts and jig­gles. Who’ll call out the lie?
It isn’t the per­for­mance, any­way–
no, that’s unfair. It real­ly kind of is,
but in the tits and ass. Of course they leer.

Wanna sex my coochie, por favor?
Mi corazón es loco por amor.
 
You likee? Si? Then you can go to Hell!
Some mid­dle-aged white dude’s star­ing at her boobs
behind the glim­mer of his shades. She knows
his type. No, scratch that, she knows him,
the work­man­like seduc­tion, thin-lipped smile,
non­de­script and mon­eyed, then it’s back
to her place (he says, “Never take ‘em home”).
And even though she knows there’s always no,
and she feels nei­ther ten­der­ness nor lust,
she knows she’ll let him fuck her. (That’s fucked-up,
she mus­es, I nev­er think I’m fuck­ing him.)
But some­one always comes, and someone’s sore,
and some­one throws, and some­one always drips
and watch­es the head­lights fad­ing as the car
turns to the road, a hulk­ing exit ramp,
and then accel­er­a­tion far away.

~

Quincy R. Lehr is the author of sev­er­al col­lec­tions of poet­ry, most recent­ly Shadows and Gifts. He is the asso­ciate edi­tor of The Raintown Review, and he lives in Brooklyn, where he teach­es his­to­ry.