house of cards.

At first glance, Crazy Card Larry’s
Ben Franklin muttonchops,
his relatable simple-ness,
his antelope-quickness—
a go-get-em pioneer attitude—
his often wind-blown/sun-burned face
(from 60+hrs-a-week at The Car Wash),
his chimney gray mortar, receding hair,
usually hidden under construction-orange
stocking cap, &
his maniac blue eyes,
like runaway marbles,
might lead someone to believe
he was from another time,
a different era.

If there was an AOL news blurb
about scientists unearthing one
of Stephen Austin’s original settlers
in Texas, & the picture was Larry,
it wouldn’t surprise me.

What reminds you that he is
of this America, this century,
is his trading card compulsion.
Larry collects nearly all
the non-sports trading cards:
from The Andy Griffith Show, Full House,
American Gladiators, Johnny Quest,
to Guinness Book of Records cards, etc.

It’s an OCD mania so neatly
threaded into his DNA strands,
so instinctively obvious to him—
like a gathering desire,
a foraging need,
a fragile house of cards
nesting impulse—
that its collapsed his 26-yr marriage,
& left him isolated (like that last
billiard ball on the pool table) from
his kids, his grandkids
& his “thirty-six nieces & nephews.”
Those are the kin he’s buying
the cards for, he tells me:
a shaky gambler, w/ the house deed,
in Vegas excuse;
an alcoholic w/ an-all-you-can-drink
gift certificate in a Christmas
envelope excuse;
a Sumo wrestler on a tour
at Willy Wonka’s factory excuse.

Larry says to me, when I tell him
the cards aren’t a priority in life,
“I have enough food in the cupboards,
back at the motel, for ten days.
The church comes by to deliver
food once a week.
And there’s some football players
that give me odd-jobs, like
mowing lawns, to help me out.
I’ll have two hundred dollars next week
to buy all these Batman and
Adams Family cards.”