Three poems | by Vern Fein


We called him by his last name,
never Reggie.
Just Steeny
or “Steeny Weenie.”
Back in the 50’s before geek
became a word for uncool or nerd,
before Dylan glorified GEEK
in Ballad of A Thin Man,
Steeny was the object of our taunts,
the bullying we all did
before that was a word anyone cared about.
I jumped in too,
feeling icky inside
when I helped pile on the abuse,
always in a group, never alone
when we pummeled him.

He just took it,
no expression reflected from his coke-bottle glasses,
no hand to his hair when we mocked his cowlick,
just moved on down the hall,
used his locker door as a shield sometimes.

O, that Halloween night.
Boy, did we have a lot of candy!
A surfeit of sugar in all forms.
Still soaped windows,
left lit bags of shit
on porches when we rang the bell,
watched the furious owner
stomping his shoes dirty.
Devil boys.

That night, bulging bags.
I had to carry mine with two hands.
Around the corner, Steeny.
Alone, bag full.
Like piranha we attacked,
ripped the bag from his hands and ran.
“Steeny Weenie.
Steeny Weenie.”
Only then did we hear
the night-shattering sob.

Now, as my daughter weeps,
shakes before me, her own bully demons
pulsing in her heart,
do I remember Steeny.


The snake spake its lies
in soothing pigeon-cooed voice.

Eve heard the fang-words
dripping with evil

did not pluck the apple
in her naked hand

snatched the snake
by its shiny throat

throttled it until
it writhed its last

lay limp on the branch
eyes glazed in amazement

apple-branch, spit-roasted it,
sated drooling Adam.


Walking out of the monstrous
gilded cathedral, glinting
in the Mexico City
afternoon sun,
I pass a crippled man
one leg, one crutch,
a dirty hat,
before his toothless grin.
I drop in 20 pesos.
I want to stuff every peso,
every bill Americano
into the hat.
I don’t.
Instead, I go to McDonald’s
for a plastic bottle of agua.
20 pesos.




A retired teacher, Vern Fein has published nearly one hundred poems and short non-fiction pieces on over forty sites, a few being: *82 Review, The Literary Nest, Gyroscope Review, Courtship of Winds, 500 Miles, and The Write Launch, and has non-fiction pieces in Quail Bell and Adelaide among others.

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