"Four flushers," "The dangers of reading," and "Hate wins"

Four flushers

-remembering the late Mr. K.


My grandfather liked to say bad people

whom he called ‘four flushers’

got it in the end. He fought at Okinawa

and being a dentist identified his friends

by their dental records. 


My dad was never sure what his dad

meant when he spoke of the end, but since

veterans don’t share their stories with civilians

my old man was left wondering whether telling

a fib about finishing your homework

would land you in the same flaming pit as Hirohito.


My grandfather and father told me

never to lie no matter what

that once my word was shit no amount

of soap would scrub it clean

and since I did lie I had to write 500 times

how wrong I was which either made me

a man of my word or a better liar.


So, how about Mr. K.?

Henry, the king of diplomacy

is dead, gone to meet his maker


The Gods will do as they please.


A Pulitzer-prize winning professor

and diplomat wrote a book

telling us how Mr. K sullied an entire

administration by approving

the murder of hundreds of thousands

of neutral civilians in a tiny Southeast

Asian country


Her words were unequivocal:

Henry was a murderer.


Later she decided his was a friendship

worth possessing so she had her photograph

taken sitting with the master at a Yankee’s

game (Damn Yankees) and counted Mr. K

a mentor


All being fair in love and war.


I also know that no matter how much evidence

landed in the lap of those whose job it is to make us

all safe, Henry just kept performing his Shuttle Diplomacy

to standing room only salons while people whose skin

was brown got detained at international airports because

of how they spelled their names.


Funny thing,

my grandfather

never mentioned 


when speaking

of four flushers


His world was filled

with tax collectors

insurance agents

OSHA regulators

and meter readers

never heads of state

or Harvard mandarins


Which remains

I think

my unspoken lesson.



The dangers of reading

Here are the dangers of reading:

  1. You will encounter words you do not know
  2. Those words will introduce you to other words and those other words will introduce you to still more new words
  3. Many of these words are either modern, semi-forgotten, or written by people who employ jargon 
  4. These words will shape your mind


If you live in a house where the adults believe

they should always know more than you

you might not want to be caught with a book

in your hand unfamiliar to them


If you go to a school where the teachers believe

they always do know more than you

you might not want to be caught with a book

they’ve never heard of


If you go to a Scholastic Book Fair in certain

states you should not ask for books about

women like Wilma Rudolph

and men like John Lewis


And if you live in Florida

you might not want to be caught

with any book at all


That isn’t

  1. The King James
  2. The Vulgate (which libraries don’t lend and you must buy)
  3. Anything published by Governor DeSantis


Also, one of the dangers of reading

is when it’s cold and people need heat

you will get into trouble for reading

anything earmarked for fuel.



Hate wins


I wrote the poem’s title first and immediately fought an urge

to change it, qualify it, explain away what I mean by

saying something forbidden


Naturally, you ask


  • What will I tell my kids and yours
  • Is this the message I really should choose


Notice I never said ‘hate is your friend’

because bombs and rockets defacing children

get repaid with graffiti on cemeteries

decapitated cenotaphs and headstones

threats etched with bullets in the sides

of schools and temples

it smears the walls of buildings

sending tenants one hundred ten floors down

on prime-time television

until the entire crummy edifice falls

sucking air from the lungs of emergency services 


(wanna buy a high-priced t-shirt to show your support?).


Twenty years and more of war but someday

or so we are told, there will be a free trade

agreement with our enemies

(Ho Chi Minh and Che sipping $7 lattes on virtual billboards)

because their hateful ideology cannot combat the appeal

of petroleum based chewing gum Manolo knock offs and weed

inflected fully automated music


All that Marxist re-education was a failed inoculation

against greed is good margin calls and wolf whistles

for Northrup Grumman’s intercontinental phalluses.


Of course, hate spawns thousands of other sins

playground bullies tax cheats and people who claim

work conference hotel rooms for cocaine and champagne

it is drugs in sports and witty retorts in cable news reports


The spirit of fair play is like two hands on a gun:

reach for the sky, bitch, or go home (we’ll put one

in your dome)


And there’s always someone to suckle for additional protection

provided they stand to inherit the biggest toys or will carry

your bag of waters because


Hate is amniotic

it’s why Tupac came

up with T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.

then did get GOT for his efforts


Despite his wealth he resembled

Mandela rather than Vorster

anticommunism’s enemy: his refugee camp

conscience for liberation marked by concerns

about rat bites on the thighs of tots and cops

using techniques developed to smite illiterates

in favelas kneeling beneath the shadow of Christ

his bearded arms outreached to a Bezos rocket

on a mountain top you have to pay a princely sum

to ascend.


You see, hate brings in the sheaves

it’s a door shut against the Santa Anas

possessing the confidence of a pig

who built his home from bricks and believes

the Earth can’t get hot enough to melt

his castle, gasify his assets 


He also knows the wolf is a stupid _______

super predator 

genetic inferior

incapable of learning a thing

so, cha-ching


(I stand by my title).



Jeremy Nathan Marks

Jeremy Nathan Marks is the author of Flint River (Alien Buddha, 2023). He works in the adult literacy field and laments that it doesn’t snow in December in the lower Great Lakes anymore. Jeremy recommends the Center for Biological Diversity.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Tuesday, January 23, 2024 - 12:29