Poem: Omen

by Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois

I’m sitting in my niece’s crappy living room
in a rundown house
in a working class neighborhood in Portland
but no one’s working

I’m pissed at Tammi
because she’s a whore
and an alcohol and drug abuser
and she won’t listen to any of my advice

Give her three piece of good advice
and she’ll do the fourth
stupid, self-destructive thing

So I don’t even try anymore
I say the Alanon prayer:
You can’t help anyone
They’ve got to help themselves

Tammi hands me the bottle of bourbon
and I take a slug

Tammi and her boyfriend Cleve never have any money
Sometimes they rent
most times they can’t
Now they’re crashing with George
a skinny guy in his sixties
with faded tattoos of naked women on his arms
old school tattoos
from the war

I walk in on a party
The house is filled with Cleve’s co-workers
guys from the moving company
about half of them ex-cons
Their personalities are as exaggerated as TV wrestlers
They make crude jokes and
chew with their mouths open
They’re like the guys I grew up with
my co-workers when I worked in the sawmill
before I got disabled

Tammi brings out her prize possession
an eight-year-old iguana named Guan
Her last one was named Iggy
Guan’s a big mother
Tammi cradles it like a cat
and feeds it pieces of Kraft processed cheese
out of plastic wrappers

Can they eat that shit? I ask
Sure, says Tammi, It’s bad for him, but he loves it

I watch Guan eat
His tongue is surprisingly big and human looking
He gives me the creeps
Tammi, feeding him, gives me the creeps

Without any warning Guan spits at me
right in my eye
I remember the movie where lizard spit is acid
and eats human flesh

I run into the kitchen
and run water over my eye
for at least ten minutes

I come out dripping
Everybody’s drunk, high
laughing at me

Fuck, Tammi, I say, I’m outta here
That lizard gave me an omen
I don’t belong here anymore

I move toward the door
An ex-con whose arms are covered with
ugly prison tattoos
steps in my way

We all gots omens, dude, he says
and none of us belong here

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