Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"Underneath a Billboard," a Poem by Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Underneath a Billboard
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

one sweaty zydeco summer you liked me
you liked me because I liked Elvis Costello
but you wouldn’t show me how much
until I guessed your favorite song
it took me a week
but one night I pointed at the car radio
it was playing “Watching the Detectives”
you clapped and you giggled
“that one gets me hot,” you said
then you ordered me to pull over
that got me hot

I remember what the billboard on 206
showed those many years ago
a platform poster of a palooka Democrat
who got smeared that election year
Mallory Jones, sacrificial lamb upon the steel gates of the Old Guard

the August night was hazy, baseball weather
the misty billboard drew bugs from three counties
they dined on our bare skin
the gulley was dark and uncut
nobody saw us but the insects
a cricket landed in your hair and you laughed
you were indeed hot

cars flash-whispered overtop our heads
the locusts applauded us, it was a banner year for them
it was the best night of my single life
even with the beer bottles and french fry canisters
mocking poor Mal’s defeat
and glorifying our raunchy spontaneity
honey, we got our kicks on 206, didn’t we?

I drive by that friendless billboard every day
rust claws high upon its waning iron post like a cancer
I swear it’s lilted a few degrees since we knew it
the face, a serrated mosaic of a hundred voided ads
times are tough and nobody’s pitching
it rings Springsteen-esque instead of Costellian
we’d had our glory day
in our weedy room with no number

I really wish you’d moved away
but I see you and that guy plus two more
all of you carrying years beyond yourselves
last I saw you, I saw purple peeking below your shades
you don’t hear me
but I whistle a familiar song from the Spike album
that was my favorite Costello tune, babe
I see you, me and that billboard and what might’ve been
do you suppose, Veronica,
the hands are on your eyes and you’ve gone to hide?

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