Three Poems from “Horrible Places”

Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Baltimore, Maryland 21240

Shoes! Computers! Remove them! Shoes! Computers! Remove them! Shoes! Computers! Remove them! Shoes! Computers! Remove them! Security chants over and over. Feeling pressured to move forward in the line even tho there’s little space in front of me to move into. I see parents (with long legs) maybe walk a little too quick. Their daughter (with short legs) had to run to keep up. It’s hard to tell whether daughter wanted to run, whether daughter even considered what she wanted.

I feel like shit. I feel like the marrow in my bones has been replaced with shit. Last night I feel asleep after three since I was worried I wouldn’t get enough sleep, I didn’t get enough sleep. I feel slothlike, but very unromantic. I feel like I’m dragging me. Dad said lets not go through this crap again as he hugged me bye. Then he kissed me. The flight left at one, but we gotta get there two hours early so we left at nine even tho it was only an hour drive we gave us two hours in case of traffic but there was no traffic.

Firm square american flags placed at an equal distance from each other. Pentatonic scale smooth jazzlike music. Music that sounds like plastic. I’m thirsty. It hurts me to carry my bags all the way to the fountain but the airport tells me if I leave them unattended someone’s likely to put a bomb inside them. Security man says now I’m just gonna rub the back of my hands on your buttocks. I said fine but what if I’d said no? Could I still get on the plane? Or is it required that someone touch my buttocks? And what if he’d said butt instead buttocks, would that have been bad? And what if he’d said ass?

Feeling trapped inside my thick sleepingbagesque jacket. I can’t take it off. There’s nowhere to put it. Sweat pushes into the jacket then rubs back on my skin, a little cool and itchy. As I reach into my pocket for my wallet for ID I feel a pressure and a drop within my chest into my stomach as I know if I don’t have it I’m fucked but no, it’s there. I found it. Then “When a Man Loves a Woman” (the smooth jazz version and this is how the airport tries to sexy) gets interrupted by security announcement with a thick voice.

Hooters, 10060 Fairfax Blvd, Fairfax, Va 22030

Men beating the shit out of each other on the TV set above me. Bacon wrapped wings. Yeah you heard that right. The world’s best wings wrapped in the world’s best meat.

Where’s the tits?! says a teenage girl. She is surrounded by teenage boys. I want the tits to bring us some food she says I’m fucking hungry. It’s so bright here light bounces off plastic glaze on tables on grease on food. Undertone of fried smell. It’s stereotypical here. Is it even interesting? Waitresses in tight shirts and booty shorts. All folks here in TV glow. Posters of women in bikinis in front of sports cars. Sign that says Please Don’t Touch The Wildlife and posters of dad jokes like If Hooters delivered would they be called knockers?

I feel like the waitresses here mostly huddle by the door which is probably what I’d do if I were in their position. Woman and guy on a date it seems. He chews loudly while wearing loud facial expressions. I was laughing pretty hard even tho it was my joke but really he got the joke even better than me. He was laughing too. It was a really funny joke. Cheese sauce for the curly fries here looks like styrofoam and almost tastes like nothing. It’s pretty good I guess. A woman walks in with her two guy friends. She smiles. She shakes her head.

Hey wait a minute now—this is too much—no fair—now there’s two of them here?! says a greasy haired middle aged man thirstily pointing at the two waitresses—jabbing his pointer finger out—right in front of them. Then other guys start talking in Spanish to a waitress but that doesn’t go well. Yeah sorry she says I know very piquito Spanish.

Hidden Creek Country Club, 1711 Clubhouse Rd, Reston, VA 20190

When I tell my mom I’m writing this poem she says ok but that’s not a real country club. I snuck in through the golf course. I didn’t have a membership but I’m white and pass as a dude and I’m dressed a bit fancy so I should be ok but I’m hot–I’m like a fountain shooting sweat everywhere and the fancy clothes make me hotter. How often are people hot because they want to look fancy or serious? The golf people I walk past are very serious. Tell me Bruce, what do you want to do? Good question, gotta do something. They wear polo shirts. This deck is made of plastic wood. Well what do you do and what’s your background? Old pool smell. I’ve been doing mostly political advertising. Light white fluffy curtains full of sun. It’s fun but sporadic–frustrating when it dries up. This bathroom feels like a museum—dark carpet fluffy seat with an ottoman. Smells like dust covered up with money. I hit a par five in two. In two?! Wow you hit a big drive. He exaggerates and stretches some of his words like he’s talking to a kid.

You need to either get in the floaty thing or not play with it anymore. My guy’s law practice is just defending judges against corruption charges. No more underneath the floaty thing ok?, it’s not safe. He’s making a fucking fortune. The display case is almost empty. It’s dusty inside. Three shelves with two photos. One falls out of its frame and twists and creases slightly. Two pictures of kids in swimming competitions and there’s brown stains on the ceiling that look like dried up coffee.

Sparkle clean floors but spiderwebs on ceilings. I walk into a restaurant that’s closed but maybe twenty people all sit there at one long table. Hey is this place closed?—then they look at me disgusted like like where-the-fuck-does-this-guy-even-get-off-talking-to-us and the sign near them says You don’t have to be alone at the top. Join the nation’s largest network of Christian CEOs, business owners, executives. When the cooks and cleaners walk by they step loudly but the country club members step gently. And the TV here is asking me: should Kaepernick cut his hair to help his image?

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Zack Haber

Zack Haber is a poet, journalist, essayist, activist, substitute teacher, and anarchist communist who lives in Oakland. They write regularly for The Oakland Post about homelessness, police misconduct, city policy, and education. Their writing has also appeared in The Elephants, DataBleed Zine, Teen Vogue, Entropy, Left Voice, and on their website,