Poetry for Joey Mullins – a poem by John Ian Bush

Part One


I met Joey Mullins in third grade,

The lunch line.

He brought his lunch,

A bag of wrinkled grapes.


Joey Mullins:

Tiny eyes,

Face like a lion,

Dressed in a black shirt

Inside out to cover up the ketchup stain,

Two or three sizes too big,

Covered in cigarette burn holes.

Under the shirt was red swim trucks,

On his feet, his grandma’s flip flops.

With him I shared my lunch,

With me he shared his grapes.



Part Two


We Sat in the corner booth on the back of Burger King.

          Now both men.

Joey studied the girl at the counter,

She was a dirty blond with ample breasts that were covered and squeezed by her tight black work shirt.

“Did you see the tits on the girl up there?” he asked, pointing to the counter.



“My mother shouldn’t have breast fed me,” he said, “now I’m obsessed with tits.”

He was eating chicken nuggets,

He dipped each in the pile of barbeque sauce that he poured out onto his flatted bag.

The corners of his lips were coated in crumbs, he looked somewhat child-like.

With me he shared his fries.


“Tom,” he said, “I work forty hours a week and my family calls me a bum.”

“Tom,” he said, “I sleep in the kitchen on a gum stained shitty mattress next to the litter box.”

“Tom,” he said, “I pray,

and pray,

and pray,

I don’t think God is listening.”

“Tom,” he said, “the whole damn house is lousy with bed bugs, I swear to Christ, they’re sucking the blood from my brain.”

“Tom,” he said, “my women hates me.”

“Tom,” he said, “she won’t sleep with me.”

“Tom,” he said, “I have to beg,

and beg,

and beg,

and beg,

and when we finally fuck, it’s sad, and I go to bed lonely and disappointed.”

“Tom,” he said, “I’m lonely and disappointed.”

He offered me his last two nuggets, so I said, “Joey, you beautiful, beautiful generous bastard, if kindness was money, you’d have a palace made of chicken nuggets and a second palace for the bed bugs and litter boxes.”

He laughed and said, “Yeah, sure, but how does that get me laid?”

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Modernist writer and poet.