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Pledge Drive
Robert Nordstrom

and I wanna be
and I wanna be
and I wanna be
                                                                                                                          —From “I’m on the Outside (Looking In),” Little Anthony & the Imperials
PBS knows how to open a checkbook:
A little Under the Boardwalk, the pen pops out,
Up on the Roof, the decimal point slides over a notch.
And Smokey—play a little Smokey
I’m doing a slow motion grope
and the chaperones are getting nervous.
But that’s when they make their mistake
and take the pocketbook break,
soft shoe it to hosts Leslie & Tom,
a chubby aging bald guy and silver-haired matron
wearing a string of pearls and a cheerleader smile
intimating reverie has its price
and it’s time you pay.
The phones ring and the dollar board turns,
stadium-perched volunteers in khaki slacks
sporting neatly trimmed beards
pick up and jot down—
“Just a few more callers,” Leslie coaxes.
“Boy, doesn’t this bring back the memories?” Tom responds.
“Those were the days,” Leslie concludes.
I’m getting impatient, the mood is fading.
I think I see Leslie’s fingertips touch the back of Tom’s hand
as she says, “Can’t wait for Little Anthony, coming up next.”
Tom quivers a shy, flirtatious smile,
slides the blessed hand into the safety of his pocket
and I’m gone—back on the inside once again.

From The Sacred Monotony of Breath (Prolific Press, 2015).
Used here with the author’s permission.


Robert Nordstrom has published fiction, essays, and poetry in numerous state and national literary publications. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee MA program in creative writing, he worked as an editor for various scholarly and trade magazines, and as a university level writing instructor, for more than 30 years. These days, he divides his time between writing poetry and driving a school bus, the latter of which offers such diverse opportunities as teaching kindergarteners how to snap their fingers and issuing warnings that it's probably best for students to avoid licking the seat in front of them. Learn more about Robert at



Post New Comment:
Too true, enjoyed it
Posted 07/17/2015 09:58 PM
Paradea - One line says an' I wanna be, another line says I don' wanna be.
Posted 07/17/2015 12:06 PM
I always thought it was "I don't wanna be, I don't wanna be...but then, I have always sung the wrong words to songs! Love this poem!
Posted 07/17/2015 10:20 AM
Glen Sorestad:
Robert, you've captured it perfectly and have brought home that sense of the artificiality at its heart.
Posted 07/17/2015 10:09 AM
Bingo! ... and cheers for the poet. (We are of an age . . .)
Posted 07/17/2015 06:40 AM
Gary Busha:
The dialogue is central. Yes to this one.
Posted 07/17/2015 06:13 AM
I used to bite and pledge, now I've become immune. No longer watch. Poem really invokes memories, accurate and beautifully done.
Posted 07/17/2015 04:07 AM

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