A Crow With a Machine Gun

What’s black, sits in a tree, and is very dangerous?
–children’s riddle

It was sometime near the Solstice because that’s when quirky magical things occur, even if the rest of you are too beguiled by the agents of empiricism to perceive them. I was convening with my ally, my accomplice, my partner-in-crime, Kali incarnate warrior princess, fiercely beautiful, beautifully fierce two-spirit poet Machine Gun Sally. MG, really. MG Salazar.

“What’s the MG stand for?”

“Machine Gun,” with a wink and a nod.

We met in Other World, in that place without time, then recognized each other when I moved above The Skullery Maid on Troost. TSM is a vintage clothing, curiosities, and oddities shop. As an editor for the Desolate Country poetry anthology MG recognized my essence in my submission “Guernica.” We saw each other when our landlord introduced us over the wary Gazpacho, fierce warrior pooch who’s a sweetie once you know him. Unless you wear a hat. Shortly after meeting we bonded while rescuing the baby birds that kept dropping in our yard and parking lot–back when we still had a parking lot–a tale recounted in “The Brief Life and Tragic Death of Starling Witt.”

We saw each other every day last summer. All I had to do was walk downstairs. I was useful for whiling away long stretches between customers. MG was useful for human interaction.

MG moved The Skullery Maid to Walnut Street, near the Art Institute, so now I make a special trip instead of wandering downstairs on a whim. I miss our proximity. I try to drop in the store a couple times a week.

This was one of those times.

“I’ve got a story I’ve been dying to tell you!” I said. “No one else could appreciate it.”

“Oh, this I’ve gotta hear.”

“You remember I go to that poetry thing every other Friday night–”

“Midnight Poetry?”

“Used to be. They moved it up. No one’s 20 anymore.”


“Now they call it ‘Not Quite Midnight Poetry.'”

“That’s hilarious.”

“I know. Anyway, I read from Finding Zen in Cow Town–”

“That Kansas City anthology?”


“You were in that?”

“No!” I hammed my exasperation. “Ryborg even asked me if I had any KC poems, but I didn’t at the time.”

“I didn’t even know it was coming out until it was at the printer,” MG scowled.

“I’ve started a couple since then. One that starts with John Calvin McCoy carving Broadway down to the Les Freres Chouteux to save two days off his trip to Independence. I may have bit off more than I can chew. But I do have “The ATM at Brookside” in Rogue’s Galley–”

“You read a poem?” Focus, Mark.

“I read Bill Peck’s piece.” We both knew Bill. He was one of the first Kansas City poets I met. William Peck had been a stalwart of gritty KC poetry for most of a score of years. For a while he had hosted Midnight Poetry in his penthouse loft overlooking Broadway at 36th, across from what is now  apartments but in the heyday of the Pendergast machine running wide open was the upscale Ambassador Hotel.

Bill had run Metaphor Media out of the space where MG ran TSM on Troost. He had lived in the apartment upstairs.

“So, I got up to read, and before I began the host asks, ‘Who’s the poet?’ And I said, ‘You’ll know when you hear it.’

“And I began reading ‘Kansas City Nights’ which is quintessentially Bill, saturated in deep draughts of Tom Waits. Allen immediately nodded, saying ‘Bill Peck’ … and it was funny, and all. But I got to the part about him going home to face himself alone in the mirror, walls peeling paint, the fucked-up ceiling …”

… with that hand rolling ‘go ahead’ gesture …

“And I realized … that same hole’s still in the ceiling.”

“That’s fucked up.”


“That’s hilarious.”

“I know.”

About Mark Matzeder

By education a filmmaker, by trade an electrician, by avocation a writer and sometime scholar. Occasionally I wring an essay out of some observation I have made or experience I've had and share them here. Sometimes I'll share short fiction. Sometimes a poem. But mostly it's just my spin on this strange trip.
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