Fred Whitehead

the dive poet

I used to see him here
wearing smoke

         monk like
         the honeyed glow
         of backlit bottles

this was
before younger folks straggled in
attracted by legend or curiosity

               - outer ring types
               who took up pitchforks
               for pristine lungs and the fight
               for a longer measure of time    
               the scent
               of sweet pea shampoo could     
               linger about their
               as yet     
                           unweighted shoulders

the likes of these drove out the smoke
as well as most of his kind
       driven out
       or home
       or mad

I'd sidle up to him
when the crowd was thin
and try the small talk

he'd be bent over a beer and notepad
all broken teeth and narrowed eye
fingertips as yellow
as the journalism of his youth

       he never offered up much

an opinion maybe
on the home team’s performance
warnings against
misdeeds and miscalculations
and the debilitating effect
of unstructured thought
      it was enough

he never talked about his work though
and I never asked

which may well be the only reason
he paid for a round
        from time to time


Fred Whitehead is a lifelong native of Western New York. He has authored nine volumes of poetry. He is currently the host of a monthly poetry series at Dog Ears Bookstore & Café, which he has happily done since 2010. He also sporadically publishes chapbooks through his Destitute Press.