The Marlboro Man: Forever In Blue Jeans

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t wear
denim and leather all the time.
That’s just the costume they put me in for the day,
and once the shoot’s over, I hand it all over
to be washed for next time.
I’ve had men come up and shake my hand,
pleased to meet someone like themselves,
someone who gets to buck the system
and dress down on the job.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I respect these guys—
but I always liked the feel of a suit and tie,
dress shoes, wool overcoat.

My Dad, he despaired of his hands,
the grease that shadowed them,
avoided handshakes so as not to expose them,
patted shoulders instead.
I can still see him untying those steel-toed boots
at the end of a shift, sitting back a bit
after easing them off with his heel,
the way they sat there on the hallway floor,
empty and heavy. He’d close his eyes,
unaware of being watched,
his mouth fallen open
like leaves from a tree.

Sometimes, when I’m sitting there in the dirt,
I kill time by knotting a tie in my mind,
going over each step as he taught me—
the special trick at the end
of slipping your finger in the loop,
so that when you pull it closed
it forms a little dimple.

When I asked him why I had to do it that way,
he said it was to mirror the hollow
in your wife’s neck when you were dancing.

Who knew that old bird
could sing so great a song?
Dr. X Has A Secret: July 1957

      “There you are: electric television.” — Philo T. Farnsworth

Philo Farnsworth loosens his tie a little
as he slumps onto a sofa in the studio’s
dressing room after exiting the stage.
He stuffs the $80 he just won
by stumping the panel of celebrities
who could not guess his identity
into his jacket pocket and breaks open
the box of Winstons that accompanies the prize.
He’s not a man who relaxes easily,
but tonight he puts his feet up on the coffee table
and takes a good, long drag.

As the inventor of television,
he made all of their careers possible,
and yet they had no idea who he was,
and the boredom writ large across their faces
when he described his work
told the world they didn’t much care.

Sometimes, if he could go back to
that potato field in Rigby, Idaho, where at 14
the lines he tilled in the soil became lines
on the imaginary screen in his mind,
would he have pursued his terrible invention?
He thinks not. Better by far
to have played the violin.

And yet here he is, milking the irony
for all it’s worth, for the sake of what?
A few bucks and a carton of cigarettes
from the show’s sponsor — and him
a good Mormon who doesn’t even smoke.

He crushes the stub in an ashtray
emblazoned with the words “I’ve Got A Secret”
and decides to tell Pem, his wife,
that Jane Meadows was just as beautiful in
color, even though she wasn’t.

Twelve years from now he’ll watch
men land on the moon and admit
it was all worthwhile, but tonight,
tonight he knows the real secret he carries
is that he’s not the anonymous Dr. X at all;
he’s Robert Oppenheimer,
the destroyer of worlds.
~ ~ ~

Micki Myers

Micki Myers is the author of two books of poetry, Trigger Finger (winner of the Pearl Poetry Prize), and It’s Probably Nothing…, a breast cancer memoir. Her work has appeared most recently in The Paris Review, Arena, The Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Medium, Stirring, and Nerve Cowboy. She is the recipient of three Pushcart Prize nominations, and writes about the world’s worst cookbooks at Yuckylicious. She teaches English in Pittsburgh and can be found at