four dog track poems by B.R. Yeager
I was too high
and the customers could tell.
Negating the cold water rubbed into my
“Having fun, boy?”
I pulled out his fourth
Miller High Life and
popped the cap.
“Yeah, sure. I guess.”
“That’s what I thought.”
Substance made The Track go ‘round.
Customers drank or wore through
whatever they smuggled in
or whatever they could lift
off the bar.
Between the kitchen
the kennel and
the maintenance crew
there were at least two dealers
on the premises
at any given time.
I stayed tame. Relatively.
draped crown to heel in cowboy regalia
—ambled to the bar.
A cough then
“Got any cocaine?”
“What?” I heard him fine.
“Co-caine.” Eyebrows narrow and
crooked. “Do you have any?”
“Excuse me sir?” I heard him fine.
A handful of seconds lost to the air. “Jesus, kid—
I’m fucking with you.”
A smile or
snarl. “I’ll take
a Milky Way.”
They had names, of course.
We just called them “The Greeks”
which I admit is kind of shitty.
But apart from being assholes
(and everyone at The Track was an asshole)
nationality seemed to be their
lone distinguishing quality.
The three of them ran
two pizza joints
each a couple miles in either
direction from The Track
Benji was the youngest.
He sipped Dewers from a pint glass and
bragged about mobbing
in the homeland.
With great frequency
he explained that he liked a little dope
but never touched cocaine
“Well, maybe a leetle bit.”
Oscar was short, thin
and carved from oak.
I placed him between 45 and 50
and my more colorful daydreams
assured me he had killed at least one man
with his bare hands.
He rocked plastic cups
brimming with Johnny Walker Red
and just a splash of water.
One time I watched him grab a waitresses’ ass
before asking if she was on her period.
The fat man.
Short and round and a perpetual frown.
Barely any English
bellowing from his chair
They got away with it because their
tips averaged ten bucks a drink.
They paid us off
to treat us like shit
and we let it happen
because our Venn diagrams of rational for
sticking with The Track
excluded “maintaining personal dignity.”
The only thing keeping me
from truly hating them
was to imagine crossing an entire ocean
only to hustle pizza
yell at dogs and
grind the spirits of wait staff
between worn down teeth.
Ron was always good to me
he was kind of a dick.
The other bartender and
the only other guy on the front end of
“Don’t let these fuckers give you any shit,”
Night after night I let those fuckers walk all over me.
It was an easy code for his girth and stature.
Ron looked as though he could rip a man in two.
Not necessarily muscular and
not exactly fat.
Just one of those guys who probably
gave his mother hell
on his way out.
“The fuck are those spics doing now?”
glaring at the poorly-paid
migrants scooping dog shit.
(I never knew what he was referring to).
He called guys “faggot”
the way other men say “good morning.”
We got on well because
I kept my mouth shut because
he put the fear of God in me.
It was a Saturday and I
was wrapping up shift and
Ron was slotted to relieve me.
Forty minutes late.
(Unlike him—no sarcasm)
with a face like a smacked ass
and a voice like an amnesiac.
“You okay, man?”
the name of his seven-month old Beagle
“Charlie ran out in the road and I…”
Tears filled the cracks in his face like
drought-dry riverbeds choking on rain
“I couldn’t stop him.”
Cinder-block Neanderthal hands hiding his face.
I rested my fingers on his shoulder and told him to go home.
I didn’t want to work a double but it was alright.
Sam was a smiley vet
with a rail-stiff leg
and every night he
drank his limp into
The Track’s lone security guard.
The night the power lost
and the parlor went black
he hobbled behind the bar
to the circuit breaker.
“What’s the good word?”
My stock phrase for customer and
“There…” his lips slurred and
hanging. “There is no
about the author:
B.R. Yeager learned many lessons from his stint as a dog track bartender, chiefly that of “never, ever bartend at a dog track.” His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from FreezeRay Poetry, Mixtape Methodology, Cheap Pop, Pidgeonholes, Cartridge Lit and Unbroken Journal. http://bryeager.wordpress.com
Reblogged this on marylisadedomenicis and commented:
Thanks for sharing these! I’ve worked in the food service industry and these hit close to home! You’re a very tolerant and sympathetic man, as shown by these poems.