3 Poems by Richard Vargas

the 80s

i was a warehouse supervisor for the Bristol Meyers distribution center in Buena Park, flown into Dallas/Ft. Worth for a weekend of meeting big shots from the home office in Connecticut and sitting through boring presentations about improved order picking techniques, safety in the workplace, projected productivity stats. it was mind-fucking torture but i sat there taking notes looking serious and alert. it was a corporate pony show, they were scoping the room for fresh talent, the eager racehorses anticipating the open gate. but some of us had other ideas and at the first chance we ditched the evening’s meet and greet with the director of this or the V.P of that and hit the town with our peers that called the city their home. they took us to Billy Bob’s, the world’s biggest honky tonk, to watch drunk tourists paying to ride real bulls as big as a VW. then we went to a club with obnoxious flashing lights and fake fog creeping onto the dance floor. i bought a few drinks for the perky blonde in our group who worked for the company’s operation in Chicago. we made it a point to not talk shop and she agreed to a dance when Madonna’s video of Like a Virgin played on a 40 ft screen while the place was abuzz with something about Too Tall Jones and Tony Dorsett having just entered the VIP lounge. on the way back to the hotel our host driving the car said she had one more place to show us and then we were on an eerie stretch of road, well-lit but not a car or soul in sight. she stopped in the middle of the street and told us to get out, so i opened the passenger door and stood there in the quiet early a.m. in Dallas, Texas, as she pointed behind us and up at a window in a tall bldg. and explained “that’s where Oswald was when he pulled the trigger.”

a soft whisper said,
“there’s lipstick on your collar.”
i thought, “could be worse.”

the story of my life

she really wanted to go to the White Trash River Fest on Saturday, but i really felt it would be a mistake.

“why?” she asked.

“well, you know. the crowd will be 100% trumpsters, no one will be wearing a mask, they will be packed like drunk sardines acting stupid and shit. i don’t want to be around all that.”

“you know” she said, “your online dating profile didn’t say anything about you being such a wimp. and mine specifically said ‘no couch potatoes.’ all we do is sit around watching movies on Netflix. i want some fresh air. and i want an excuse to wear my new bathing suit.”

“you can wear your bathing suit here, baby. we’ll sit by your wading pool drinking margaritas. i’ll even make your favorite flavor.”

she looked at me, as if she was seeing me for the first time. she was sizing me up, clearly having second thoughts.

the shocking end to the story of my life

so we ended up sitting by the wading pool in the hot summer sun. my feet were in the water, my Kum & Go ice chest full of Old Milwaukee Lite, listening to Johnny Cash on the blue tooth speaker. she was sitting across from me, filing her nails and looking like she’d rather be somewhere else, rubbing shoulders with people waving the confederate flag and screaming “yee haw” while Kid Rock played over the speakers.  i complimented her bathing suit, a mango orange-colored thing that matched the margarita she was drinking. she acted as if she didn’t hear me, and i knew this was the beginning of the end. we had both lied. she had said she was liberal, like me. i had said i was a people person, like her. what i didn’t notice, until it was too late, was the electric fan she had on the plastic K-mart side table next to her folding chair. it was plugged in with the extension cord. when she took her feet out of the pool, and picked it up, holding it over the water, i thought, “this can’t be good…”

Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference and facilitated a workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. His three books of poetry are McLife, American Jesus, and Guernica, revisited. He edited/published The Más Tequila Review from 2009-2015. Currently, he resides in Monona, WI.