Two Poems by Nikki Wallschlaeger

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Ass, Gas, or Grass: No One Rides for Free

You make me feel like I’ve never touched anyone,

empty shed without music. Additional ingredients

for comparison: I love migrating feet because it’s

real, to add sugar to a wound, the apple trees are 

blossoming. Biographies thicken with natal down,

ordinary freedoms read and reshelved. Instructed

distractedly on most occasions, what’s a mammal

to do except apply for state dehabituation benefits.

The state, however, frowns on people taking their

brains into their own hands unless they get a cut

out of industrial meatspace readied for recession. 

In the ruins of truck stops, bleached skulls whistle

where hells bells and prairie smoke dare to tread.

I’d rather not stop, but what other choice do I have?

Only Black Girl Behind the Bar 

I would’ve been a better bartender
if they would’ve left me alone
trust that bartending is
also a social art 
when you work for tips 
you gotta be a friend
make a few friends
people often come to
the same bar everyday
their lives discharging 
right in front of you 
miserable after work
on their way to work 
I showed a man poems
he said “universal love”
I got fired for not selling
enough drinks for that one
another time I sold drinks 
that weren’t drinks, sugar
water so the dancers 
wouldn't get too tanked 
there were regulars there
too, old men who had a 
few tipped their favorites
and went home at a decent
hour, they barely talked 
their money spoke for them
or they had been alive too
long that talking was useless
especially in a place serving
gorgeous women in thongs
flirting for their livelihoods
then another time I worked
in a blues bar and the owner
was a top notch alcoholic
and eventually took the 
city’s money and now it’s
a parking lot nobody uses
but as Etta James says
you gotta serve somebody
no matter where you are 
no matter who you become
everyone in that bar knew
she only sang the truth so 
this next round is on me
and I’ll get myself one too
the only Black girl behind
the bar knows how to take
damn good care of you