“Bed Bugs” by Josh Olsen

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I was headed towards a garbage can, to throw away an empty cup of coffee, and suddenly caught a strong whiff of mint. Before I even saw the young man brushing his teeth over the garbage can, I had smelled his toothpaste, and there he was, in faded blue jeans and a hooded sweatshirt, a full backpack slung over his shoulder. “What are you doing, you fucking bum?” an assertive male voice inquired from a distance, and the young man brushing his teeth took a swig from his water bottle, spit a mouthful of foam into the garbage can, and laughed so hard he nearly choked. “What the fuck does it look like?” the young man replied. “You’re gonna be late for class, dude!” the distant voice chimed in, and the young man who had been brushing his teeth jogged away from the garbage can to catch up with his classmate and disappeared in the crowd.

With the garbage can no longer occupied, I dropped my empty cup into the foamy puddle of spit that had already begun to attract bees. Several of them lazily flew up out of the can, and when I felt something crawling on the lobe of my right ear, I tried, at first, not to panic, but being deathly allergic to bees, couldn’t stop myself from swatting wildly at my head. Luckily, it was only a ladybug. “Another fucking ladybug!” I said out loud, to myself. They were coming off me like spores. Already that day, I had found at least five of them on me. Or maybe it was the same one, returning after I brushed it off the sleeve of my moth-eaten sweater.

Later that afternoon, while walking with my partner, one of those rare moments when we were able to synchronize our schedules and grab lunch together, I mentioned that ladybugs were flying out of my orifices and was deftly corrected. She said that they were more than likely Japanese Stink Beetles, which didn’t sound nearly as magical, but did, in my opinion, seem more appropriate. “And speaking of bugs…” I grumbled while nudging KT’s elbow and nodding my head in the direction of a large, white truck being loaded up by men in coveralls and rubber gloves. Two by two, they paraded from a student apartment complex a series of twin-size mattresses wrapped in plastic. “Bed bugs,” KT gasped. “Ugh, that’s gonna give me nightmares,” I said, and it did.

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

3 Poems by Josh Olsen

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Road Trip

Gas station cashier
told me my change
was $6.66. 

I said,
“I hope that’s a sign
of good things
to come,” 

& he replied
with a hearty,
“Hail Satan.”

 


 

On the 5th Anniversary of Taking My Daughter to Warped Tour 2013

“Sell out … with me, oh yeah” – Reel Big Fish, “Sell Out”

I was informed at the gate that I wouldn’t need a ticket to enter, because I was accompanying my 14-year-old daughter, & several of her underage friends, so I tried to sell my extra ticket at the door & was almost immediately arrested for scalping, but thankfully, I was not apprehended, which allowed me the opportunity to witness a Stefan Struve doppelganger get knocked out cold in a parking lot moshpit fistfight, while Reel Big Fish covered A-Ha’s “Take On Me.”

 


 

the big rig ladder

[found/erasure poem]

 

some people weren’t cut out
to be cooped up

maybe you’re one of them 

you want to climb
the big rig ladder
know what it is like
to swing up into a big rig cab 

show it who’s boss
make those 855 cubic inches
of raw diesel power
behave 

tame them 

drive trains
transmissions
braking systems 

move on to the real thing 

three tough weeks
on the driving range
& on the road 

backing
docking
coupling
reverse serpentines 

then taking the big rigs out
on the interstate 

you got what it takes
to take on the big rigs?

if you want to climb
the big rig ladder
start with the pros

Source: Ryder Technical Institute mail-in advertisement, 1975

 

 

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

“Nashville Shirt” by Josh Olsen

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I bought a western shirt in Nashville
I now refer to as my “Nashville shirt,”
because it’s so resplendently ugly
it should only be worn in Nashville,
but I’ve taken to wearing it in Detroit,
because Detroit can appreciate
an ugly shirt, too.

Our last night in Nashville,
outside the hotel,
there was a highly intoxicated woman
in an NSYNC t-shirt.
“I ain’t got no shame,”
she was saying to the doorman.
“I like to party.”
The next morning,
we saw her at the hotel
continental breakfast,
clearly drunk from the night before,
and still in her NSYNC t-shirt,
but silent now,
and stuffing her mouth
with scrambled eggs.

On the drive home,
from Nashville to Detroit,
we paused at a truck stop
in Lebanon Junction, Kentucky,
where I saw a t-shirt that read
I’VE BEEN HAULIN’
SINCE YOU’VE BEEN CRAWLIN’,
and I desperately wanted to buy it,
but didn’t feel like I earned it,
having never been a long-haul trucker,
just an adjunct writing instructor
turned academic librarian
who drives 140 miles per day
to work and back.

My first day back to work,
at a library in Flint, Michigan,
I proudly wore my Nashville shirt,
but no one commented
or asked about it,
good or bad,
which made me think
it was probably even more ugly
than I originally thought.

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan. He’s the author of two books, Six Months and Such a Good Boy, and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.

3 Poems by Josh Olsen

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Haiku After the Nasty Boys

I much prefer it
when fat professional wrestlers
don’t shave their armpits.

Tombstone

I’m not proud
of any of my scars

except for where
the love of my life
busted me open

with a frozen
pepperoni pizza.

Trust Us (A Truck Stop Restroom Found Poem)

Don’t use
the hot water.
It stinks and
so will you.
Trust us.

Josh Olsen is a librarian in Flint, Michigan. He’s the author of two books, “Six Months” and “Such a Good Boy”, and the co-creator of Gimmick Press.