John Paul Davis

Tom Waits

John Paul Davis

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After Tom Waits

Has only ever owned one hat,

but repositions it on a daily basis.

He tours according to the phases of the moon.

He once brawled onstage with a two-ton upright piano–

the piano got up on a nine count that was really eleven.

The index finger of Tom’s left hand is a tuning fork.

He wrote Innocent When You Dream inside a derelict Ghost Train.

Tom was cast as one of the original Dead End Kids,

though his scenes were cut from Angels With Dirty Faces,

the negatives burnt in a wicker man

then buried in a landfill near Ghent.

He was kicked out of the Rose of Tralee contest in 1984

for lacing the judges’ tea with poitín.

For showing the Roses his favourite pictures of carnival freaks.

In his refrigerator you’ll find Keith Richards’ lug wrench,

Jesus blood in a rabbit-foot phial,

a jar of artichoke hearts.

Sitting Bull stared into the campfire once,

conjured Tom out of blue flame.

Two parts smoke to one part bourbon.

Slinky for a backbone.

His resting body shape is a question mark.

Homeless he once slept inside an active volcano.

He plays the cement mixer at Grade 7 level.

He lost a game of dominoes to The Black Rider in Singapore

and it cost him that night’s dream in which Tom

trained a pack of junkyard rottweilers to yodel Edelweiss

for the Sultan of Brunei – in town for a Sultans convention.

He once fixed Barry White’s vocal cords

with nothing but a gelding clamp

and holy water (blessed by the Dalai Lama).

The traditional way.

There have been sightings of Tom’s ghost at the Tropicana Motel–

long since a Ramada Plaza on Sunset Strip–

cooking eggs over easy with a soldering iron,

writing valentines to the residents of Hollywood Forever Cemetery,

flinging them into the stove one by one.


John Paul Davis


John Paul Davies is originally from Birkenhead and has been published in Crannóg, The Manchester Review, The Interpreter’s House, Rosebud, Orbis, The Pedestal, QU Literary Magazine, Apex and Grain.

In 2016 he was runner up in the Cheshire Prize for Literature, and won the RTÉ Guide/Penguin Ireland Short Story Competition. He organises a regular creative writing group in Navan, which can be found on Twitter: @Bulls_Arse