Wells Burgess


Life on the Strip

Brenda Starr

My stellar Brenda knows it’s all a frame-
up; before she’s through, she’ll luff the Mayor’s jib.
Unconscious of her place in women’s lib,
without a nod to fortune or to fame,
she gets right in his face, this upstart dame,
and with her exposé takes down his crib
(scooping the cub reporter from the Trib).
The Mayor’s left crying in a waste of shame.
Sixteen, I stare between my angled knees
and take off all her 1950’s dresses.
Oh alabaster skin! Oh Brenda the fair!
Here, now, at least beneath the sheets, we’re free!
I drown my lust, entangled in her tresses.
(And to this day I’m hung up on red hair.)

The Katzenjammer Kids

In German it means “hangover,” no joke –
they’d twist your head. I loved the little shits.
Their names were used (see White House Politics)
for Haldeman and Erlichman, two blokes
who, in the murk of Oval Office smoke,
unpacked a briefcase full of dirty tricks
that kept secure the crown of Tricky Dick
until Dean squealed, and pulled aside the cloak
that hid them all. Oh what malign misprision
of Hans and Fritz, my wunderkinder bros!
They rigged the dynamite; they hit the switch;
the grown-up world exploded in confusion.
I cried when they were caught and Rollo crowed,
“You brought it on yourselves.” The rotten snitch!

Daddy Warbucks

What’s with the name? There’s something rotten here.
This mega magnate, towering and bald,
shows up to rescue Annie from the thrall
of Big and Little Monster. Dad steers clear
from any brush with scandal, yet one hears
of Pentagon connections, of cabals
with politicians at their beck and call.
No matter. He’s Time’s Bigshot of the Year.
Young Annie thought him altogether good,
but after studying Das Kapital
(at Berkeley now) she smells a rat. She chucks
the dress, the smiling dog, her orphanhood;
becomes Red Ann, the steely radical
who’ll stop his war, and deal the poor his bucks.


Wells Burgess is retired and lives in Arlington, Virginia. He received an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2011. His light and humorous poems have been published in Measure, The Edge City Review, Minimus, and The Federal Poet.