February 1, 2015


Nick Hopkins is a professor of English, holding an M.F.A. in Writing from Lindenwood University. He is also an accomplished songwriter, whose work has been featured in numerous television shows, such as America's Next Top Model and The Real World. His non-musical writing has appeared in publications like Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, The MacGuffin, and Punchnel's. He resides in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his more-talented wife and couldn’t-care-less cat.

Ain’t No Sinners
On the seventh day, we rested.
Cold pew or warm bed?

Easy choice. Ain’t no sinners here,
just sleepy heads.

Television flicker and flash.
Lit to life by infra-red tipped match.

Mail-order preacher hocks his wares.
Blessings for dollars. Makes good sense,

he says. After all, this here’s the end.
Y’all are my sheep.

Haven’t you heard? Shepherd left me in
charge. Peace of mind for piece of plastic.

Name on the card? Expiration date?
Armageddon ready, how ’bout you?

Wars and rumors of wars, he says.
Change your ways, but not the channel.

After service, we file into the kitchen.
Toast and jam with Sunday paper.

Always strawberry. Only the funnies.
Wars and rumors of wars

make fine placemats, napkins.
What’s black and white and red all over?

Too cold for a walk,
restless for a drive.

Apartment could use a dusting.
List of to-do’s getting longer,

I-don’t-want-to’s louder.
From the adverts, an excuse beckons:

play in someone else’s dust for a change?

Let’s leave our list and
wars and rumors of wars

for another day. Follow directions
to the outskirts of town. Across from

the strip club where menu-item girls
hock their wares. Dances for dollars.

Pole position. Gentleman, start your engines.
We laugh, imagining the rainbow scene

within colorless, windowless walls:
red-faced first-timer drooling over

orange spray-tanned curves as he
yellows his liver and pulls

green bills from
blue-jean pocket while girls with names like

Indigo and
Violet make eyes from the stage.
On the left side of the street,
young girls selling their futures.

On the right, old women their pasts.
Lust or dust, sinner or saint. Fine line…

steps apart. We’ve nothing to worry about,
we say, turning right. Ain’t no sinners here,

just sleepy heads. Passing through the door,
we age half-a-century. Walking slowly,

so as not to miss a thing. Faces wrinkling,
poring over glass cases. Suddenly hard of hearing,

as we speak softly, not wanting
to disturb the ghosts.

The well-preserved air clings
to our Sunday good-enough.

Browsing bonds and buttons,
guns and gasmasks. Seems they had

wars and rumors of wars
then, too. Not to mention,

the sinners. Pinup girls, un-dressed
like those across the street,

strut their stuff in black and white.
Bomber art, tail on tail.

Starred and striped, half-
clad patriette unashamedly-proud

to be an American. Sunday dinner
at the diner next door.

Inspecting our finds, swapping stories
and kisses, as we wait on the kitchen.

Uninvited guest arrives.
Dirty looks set to door chimes.

Hair-sprayed and glitter-coated. Sweats covering
short shorts and long night.

To go, she says. Pays in singles. Ring-less
hand holds school-picture keychain.

After-church patrons offer judgment
in stares…strip

her dignity. Flushed-cheek war paint.
Sheep surround wolf.

Drive home—interrupted—
concerned Saint on the line.

Missed you at church today, she says,
it’s important you be there. Now

more than ever. What with
wars and rumors of wars.

See you next week? Afraid not,
we say, other plans. In a diner pew:

talking pasts, but not our own.
Met her just today, comrade-in-arms-and-long-legs.

War-time pin-ups caught her eye,
said they reminded her of grandma.

Told her we’ve got more
from stolen Sundays, said she’d love to see:

Breakfast it is, but not too early,
I’ve got battles to fight,

wars even, she said. Putting myself
through college, supporting my son.

Spread the rumors. We three,
unholy trinity. Breakfast it is…

but not too early. Ain’t no sinners here,
just sleepy heads.

Amazing Graceland

Crowded room
in our lonely twenties:

me with my Elvis complex,
her in that dress, knocking socks off.

I’m all shook up
thinking ’bout the possibilities.

If only she’d notice
me: lip curling to limber up

for kisses that make hips
ache to shake, please God,

please send her my way…

Thank you,
thank you very much.

You Make Me Feel

I sat on a couch
she called davenport.

He took the easy chair—
no questions asked—

his for local news and
family gatherings.

Smoker’s cough hatched
in thirteen-year-old lungs.

We all tried for the sunny side:
that he’d lick the sixty-winter habit

like he did the Nazis
in the summer of ’45.

But, he didn’t,
which put him square across,

dying in the living room,
while we listened

to one of those television stations
plays music like a radio:

“You Make Me Feel
Like a Natural Woman,”

an awkward last dance
between awkward men,

who didn’t sing or feel or speak
through hard lines of matching mouths.

Told myself to remember—
could be the last time we were

who we were and just sat.
And, it was,

not counting the time
they put him square across
in a casket
I called coffin

because it reminded me
of his bad lungs, the ones

whose hacking-racket
I want back, drowning

out as always,
any singing or feeling or speaking

of softer times when we were
who we were and just sat.

~Nick Hopkins

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