“At the Annual Worley Family Reunion” by Jeff Worley

Jeff Worley


Well, we don’t need name badges.
A good turnout this year, I think,
though it’s awkward, like wearing
someone else’s shoes that almost fit.
Jeff Worley the heavy-metal guitarist
is easy to spot—pink hoop earrings,
face a porcupine of pins gleaming like mica
under the too-bright lights. I sidle over to him.
I play guitar too, I say. Peter, Paul & Mary?
That kind of thing? He suddenly has
somewhere else to be. Because Pastor Jeff
of the Jeff Worley Ministries in Lynchburg,
VA, has a “God-given burden” (his website)
to reach lost souls, he locks in on me.
Shakes my hand, smiles, and gives me
an Old Testament. Then Jeff Worley
the transvestite (if I don’t miss my guess)
cruises up in his slick, tight limousine
of leather pants and wants to know who
he has to fuck around here to get a drink.
Pastor Jeff and I point, in sync, to the bartender
tucked in the corner. Which is where
I go too, because truly I’m a little
weirded out by all these other JWs
and need a calm drink or two with myself—
the wives and girlfriends down the block
surely mocking us in Margarita Heaven—
before the Talent Show. Tonight:
Cleaver Juggling, Clogging in Ice Skates,
Crawling in Place, and the Sneezing Competition.
But first some music. The band—
heavy-metal Jeff is sitting in—plays
“We Are the Champions” (we are?).
Then, with the same awkwardness
I take with me wherever I go, like carrying
mismatched luggage, I join in the dance
under the many-faceted disco ball—
a swirling, staggering, phantasmagoric whirligig.

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017

[download audio]


Jeff Worley: “One reason I write poems is because, as the saying goes, ‘One life is not enough.’ Poets are allowed to—required to, really—invent other selves to tell stories that may or may not be autobiographical. Thanks in part to a late-night scotch or two, I take that thought a step further with the poem in this issue. The web introduced me to other Jeff Worleys whom I decided to meet imaginatively. I invited us all to a party. I hope the reader has as much fun there as we did.” (web)

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