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by Robert Eugene Rubino

When you’re the one who leaves, you’re cold-bloody

kindly, efficient as surgery, or butchery,

calm capable confident, you’re best-selling

guru of self-helping “Compleat Con Man.”

When you’re the one who leaves, you’re smug

bonfire-building book-burning bona fide thug

muddying memories, rewriting history

Ministry of Truth’s employee of the month.

When you’re the one who leaves, you’re fierce

savage destructive. You rip out

rear-view mirror, you stomp

accelerator. Bat out of hell. You’re infamous.

When you’re the one who’s been left, you’re left

in a blink up a creek armed to the teeth

with angry sorrow able to bend real with bare hands

unable to grip hard truth only righteous regret

self-respect so suspect there’s no food no sleep no break

painfully self-pitying terrifyingly weakening.

When you’re the one who’s been left, it’s earthquake

tornado universal fiasco, you’re askew awry

you’re uncool victim chump fool starring

in grand opera comic opera soap opera

unwanted role in surreal script. It’s nothing

if not memorable awfully like nothing else.

Robert Rubino has published creative nonfiction in Hippocampus Magazine, fiction in Elysian Fields Quarterly and forthcoming in Cagibi, and poetry and prose in The Esthetic Apostle. For more than 30 years he was a daily editor and weekly columnist at California newspapers.

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April 2019

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