Thursday
Jul162015

Poems by Kathryn Guelcher, Mitchell Grabois, Conrad Geller, Susanna Lang, Joan Colby, Richard Fein, Gregory Geis, Mark Jackley, Lynn DeTurk, Barbara Lightner, Veronica Zabscynski, James Grabill, Tony Walton, W.B. Keckler

Three Poems by Kathryn Guelcher

 

On a Clear Day in September

 

        One                       hun-

        dred                       and                             

        three                     stor-

        ies                           up

        if you                      can

  step  into  the  elevator, you   will

  see    that    Chicago,  apparently,

  reaches   Wisconsin—which   you

  think you  can also see from here.

  And  on  the  western facade, the

  only  one  with   an  unobstructed

  view  1,352  feet  straight  down-- 

  assuming  you    can    step   away

  from   all    human   instinct   and

  assuming you  trust the engineer

  in the  article  you read  and reread—you  can step

        onto  one  and  a half   inches  of  reinforced  glass

        that  should   hold  your life  suspended above this

        great  city.  You must ignore  the  panting, no,  the

        partial  sobbing you  hear  from yourself and listen

        instead to the rational part of you that remembers

        your  promise  to  yourself   about not  letting fear

        ground  you.  You’ll be okay  after a few moments.

        But  be   prepared  that you  will   probably see  a

        helicopter  or   a  plane  flying  barely above   you

        which will cause you to think of nine-eleven which

        will  cause  you to  think  about  Joe  Dittmar who

        climbed down this far that day in a stairwell  full of

high-heeled   shoes,  the   scent  of  jet fuel,  and   the ash of hatred

and  resilience  both  ancient  and   fresh  thinly   coating  his  brush

with survival   because he was life-lucky  that day. Right  about now

your  nine  year  old  son, thrilled  by the  helicopter but  aware that

you are afraid   of  heights, will ask you how  you are doing because

his  empathy  is  so  great  that   you  once feared   this world would

drop or crush him, but  that’s the  thing about  resilience.  You never

know when to  expect  it  or from whom. You aren’t conscious that it

can be  learned until so much else has  fallen away and you  are left

with something  solid that  bends in  the wind by calculated degrees.

Then  the  empathy, the  kindness, and even  the fears  become less

the  weakness and more like  the thin glass you are  still standing on

with  your  heart  still   pounding,  but  your  breath  steady by  now.

There is  no way  I would  step out there, others will say to you, and

you  understand  that, but  you  also understand  that  there  is  no  chance  you  would have missed it.

 

Golden Moment

 

If a man—an English teacher and a coach—

can receive two dozen red roses

from an openly gay sophomore boy

and do so casually,

then you did so with aplomb.

 

Happy birthday, he offered, unceremoniously,

his heart and arm slightly out-stretched,

ring and and pinky finger,

not fully grasping the bouquet.

 

With gratitude,

you exchanged the gift for a handshake,

and the boy entered your class

—an effeminate swagger apparent in his gait.

 

And no one cared much about the situation.

 

The way we don’t think about

the first purpose of that dividing wall in Europe

or the seats we choose on buses.

 

Apathy is the true mark of progress,

once fear and shock have given way

to indifference, when we hardly recall

what all the fuss was about anyhow.

 

Something ineffable flashed in your expression,

I’ll give these to my wife, you shrugged, pleased.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bird Sanctuary

 

I'd like to think

that on my best days,
I am less

this common brown finch
and more

the Red-Winged Blackbird.
Certainly not the Cardinal
whose brilliance and meanness

are so well-documented.

Isn't that always the pairing?
But there, perched,
dressed mostly in black,
the sleek sophistication
goes largely unnoticed
among the woodpecker
varieties with their
downy speckles
and crimson bursts,
among the possum's
casual seed-eating—
her marsupial pocket
alone for continents.
A Cedar Waxwing

flutters in, alights.
No, it's not until the
blackbird leaves that
the flash of color
draws one to it
inspiring intrigue
about the mysterious
complexity of the
simple,
only in its absence.
How beautiful,
that kind of subdued cool.
How modest, too.

 

An Apple a Day by Mitchell Grabois

 

An Apple a Day

 

My uncle was my mentor

It was because of him I decided to become a writer

though he was unsuccessful

 

When he was not yet an old man

he used to say that he would be discovered

after he was dead

 

but there came a point

when his hands were liver spotted

that he stopped believing that

 

Three years before he died

he burned all his manuscripts

and began writing his poetry in miniature letters

on the skins of apples

Then he’d eat the apples

 

Beacon Hill by Conrad Geller

Beacon Hill

 

It seemed to me that I was walking

In my old neighborhood. The houses

Leaned and gaped. I couldn't see

The numbers. No postman

Delivered the mail, hadn't in years.

The only sound I could hear was the click

Of keys, the other kind. Some writer

Was making her final note to the world.

 

I remembered every street: Temple,

Myrtle, Willow, Chestnut, Spruce,

West Cedar, Acorn never Oak.

It was winter, snow had pointed the streetlights.

Light faded to yellow as I went

Down Garden, through Blossom, into Spring.

 

Two Poems by Susanna Lang

 

Glut

 

I tell myself I have no time, but the truth is

            I am a hoarder. My basement’s clogged

with plastic bags, each one stuffed with narrow-

            waisted skirts and jeans my son last wore

in seventh grade. My computer heaves and groans,

            its circuits choked with 3,029 files

I’ve dropped in the trash but never permanently

            deleted—I might resurrect a poem

I gave up for dead, send the letter I couldn’t finish,

            study the report I downloaded with the best

intentions. Who knows? The attic floor is impassable,

            each square inch stacked with books in no

particular order; but what if I want to reread a novel

            once the plot has faded and all that remains

is the slightly mysterious atmosphere of a distant city,

            beckoning me back into its cafés, its crooked

streets? The truth is I admire the fishermen

            who stand among the emptied slips of the harbor,

so bundled in parkas and scarves I can’t tell who’s male,

            who’s female.  They’ll keep a fish or two for supper

but discard most of what they catch, leaving the smaller fry

            to thrive among the baseball caps, the aluminum cans

and shopping bags—all we can bring ourselves to throw away.

 

 

Final Scene

 

In the stories it is the daughter who dies

in her father’s arms, and the father whose name

we remember—Lear, Rigoletto, fools

whose folly might as well have knifed the girls 

lying with their shrouds radiant around them,

while their silence or their last aria offers forgiveness,

too lovely to be borne. When I was eight,

the dying girl was my best friend’s aunt

and for weeks I’d half-listened to her rehearse

at the piano while my friend and I invented

ever-afters, our voices low. I knew she’d rise again

to sit at the breakfast table but still I wept to hear

her last notes glistening in the blue stage lights,

herself and someone I almost wanted to be.

 

Three Poems by Joan Colby

 

 

Labor Day 

 

At twelve, he drove a mule train

In Montana copper mines. He’d run off

From the Iowa farm where beatings were

The breakfast of an orphan. Men

Were hung for organizing. He was

A proud Union guy. Rode the rails,

Till he and Henry landed

In the limestone quarries of Lemont

Where two Irish sisters took their eyes.

 

Seven kids, four lived, he labored

On the coal docks on Lake Calumet.

The mills blackened the sky

Over his clapboard house.

When his dog Laddie Buck died

Tears crevassed his swarthy cheeks

As he dug the pit deep enough

For any sorrow.

 

Shovel: icon of labor.

In the snowstorm of ‘55

His heart burst as he hefted

That final sparkling load.

 

 

 

 

 Spirit Creatures 

 

Wolf and raven are my amulets.

Loose in a dark wood,

One howling, one cawing, hoarse,

Aggrieved, guttural with hunger.

 

Blood on the moon.

Head thrown back, neck hair

Serrated as the long agonized cry

Splits the shadows where the raven

Croaks and flaps, a silhouette

Of ragged wish.

 

Snow on the peaked roof

Of a cabin deep in pines

Where the lost children flee

Like everyone, abandoned,

Like everyone terrified.

 

As if the wolf or the raven

Were simply emblems. As if

Every story did not hinge on choice.

 

 

 

 

 Remnants Of Dream

 

 

A crumb of sleep nestles in the duct

Leftover from the torte of dream

Dark as devil’s food,

The stiff meringue of what you

Barely recall. That half-life

Immaterial as a scheme

That dispossesses logic. A field

Of poppies nodding in a soporific breeze.

If the interface of waking

Is forgetfulness, then why

This bit of glitter lodged,

Remnant of the brilliant indecipherable world

You rub from your eyes each morning?

Fragment, inestimable speck

Of fool’s gold calcified

In the vault of tears.

 

Three Poems by Richard Fein

 

Coexisting With Frogs

 

The frog suffers from myopia.

Its bulging eyes peer out of a swamp

with only a six inch radius of clear vision

with a blurry dark world lying beyond.

The frog's eyes can catch only motion in the present tense,

the beat of a butterfly's wing, the leg twitch of another frog,

the dive of a hungry hawk but six inches too late.

The distant and motionless are unseen.

Yet  our own vision is just as finite,

our sight being smaller than a nanometer

along the earth's lifeline of four billion years.

We can neither recall the infinity before birth

nor foresee the eternity after death.

as the hectic here and now flashes by in piddling years. 

And so with our distant amphibian cousins

we share this claustrophobic present.

 

 

The Devil's Blessing

 

If I were blind since birth and then 

through some divine or medical miracle could see,

how would I know without touching

that ears are attached to a face instead of the surrounding walls,

or indeed what ear, face, and wall actually look like?

With the glare of the sun now seen with squinting eyes

instead of its warmth felt through searching fingers

how would I navigate though the new rainbow world

instead of my old one of contours, textures, and disembodied sounds?

How hard would it be to actually see that the sky is green?

Or is it blue and the grass green?

Would the sight of nakedness arouse or repel me?

With the blind man's license to touch others revoked,

how would I harmonize the chaos

of their hair, nose, eyes, cheeks, and skin with my new-found sight,

when my exploring hands are now subject to the sighted world's rules of decorum?

Would my imagination within be disillusioned at the sight of the world without?

Jesus gave a born-blind beggar a newborn vision,

but is that hosanna-and-the-blind-shall-see really the devil's blessing?

 

 

99 Word Immortality

 

Not Shakespeare but fascinating to me and probably to many others,

this pixel presented poem, "BLUE SQUILLS" by Sara Teasdale, 1884-1933.

She died young by today's standards  but was a wise old lady by ancient ones.

Of course Wikipedia is only a click away, but no

these few words are all I need  know of her,

myself  not being a scholar but only a happenstance devourer of verse

who has just spent twenty unregretted minutes of my life perusing her 99 words.

And at the bottom of the poem a paean denied to almost all of us,

"This poem is now in the public domain."

Copyright, the life of a poet plus seventy years

give or take a lawyer's dotted i's or crossed t's.

I don't know if somewhere she's angry at me,

for enjoying her words but paying her heirs no fee.

But her poem about eternity made it to the public domain

rather than to a waste basket or a computer folder named delete.

I'm reading it now and so will many others

for an eternity beyond a lifetime and seventy.

We readers have paid her a precious rare royalty,

a small annuity of postmortem fame.

 

Two Poems by Gregory Geis

 

 

Tulsa 1959

 

Above all I remember the bathroom.

 

They were poor and there was only one.

 

It smelled of Clubman and cold cream,

attar of roses and White Owl cigars.

 

A.L.’s razor strop hanging from a penny nail,

head hammered flat since 1925,

and on the ledge, a cow-licked shaving brush

standing bristles up. A toilet that

hawked before it up and spit.

The water splashed your crack

and tickled every time. The pipes

that strangled when the faucets ran,

howling bloody murder as they kicked

to life behind a glaze of lumpy plaster.

 

Below, white tile snowed with 40 years of drifting talc

and two mirrors hung to face each other.

 

See for yourself.

 

Your face, your life, affirmed in perpetuity.

You and you and you. And you again.

You the infinite regress.

 

You the ongoing argument

for you the ongoing argument.

 

And so A.L. the matter’s settled:

you do go on forever;

at least the front of you.

 

On the night stand were their dentures;

smiling from two teacups, credit teeth

bought on time from a credit dentist

in Kansas City

“Cheap, but good chewers,”

A.L. used to say.

“He made us a deal.”

 

Beneath the pillow his black-gripped Colt,

a loaded Peacemaker caliber .45LC,

hammer down on an empty chamber.

In his wandering days, before the War

(the Great one he’d remind you),

he’d been a trooper up in Michigan,

and had the photograph to prove it.

 

A.L. on a horse named Bucky, circa 1913.

State police campaign hat, brim pushed up,

Sam Brown belt, and lever action Marlin in a saddle boot.

It was the younger him, alright,

cigar in mouth, the smoking skeptic,

looking for all the world like he was bored.

Which in fact, he was.

 

And the creaky wooden floors

which even as a small child

held me up; those same floors

that squeaked and sagged,

we hugged so tightly in the hallway

when the twisters came.

 

To us there was no firmer ground.

Such lowness could drive storms away

or at the least keep us from being hoovered up

 

or so we thought.

 

My mother reading OZ by candlelight,

unshakeable and bright.

Grandma doing needlepoint.

Grandpa calmly smoking.

We children terrified,

while all around the twisters raged,

their random terror

no match for Baum or Dr. Seuss.

 

It must have worked

because they missed us every time.

Such mother’s magic did not lift us up from Kansas

or drop us on the road to Emerald City

but took us to a stranger place.

 

This world was Tulsa:

 

the house of my grandparents

2236 East 7th street.

 

We are in Oklahoma.

It is 1959.

 

That is me in the mirror.

 

 

 

Fig Leaf

 

The idea of anonymous sex

appeals to me.

 

Not knowing who I’m not knowing

would be a rush.

 

Maybe I could even write a poem

that didn’t use names or refer to anyone in particular.

 

Then I could use it to attract women

who didn’t really want to know me either;

 

and not knowing each other, we

could meet somewhere to un-zipper,

 

arranging by mutual consent

to tingle nakedly together

 

sharing the secret of our nobodyness

in all its naughty splendor for maybe 20 minutes

 

Five Poems by Mark Jackley

 

 Mailbox

 

dust and silence of

the moonscape of the Basin

 

someone mails a letter

 

red flag raised

 

 

End Of The Tale

 

 It seems the narrative was fiction

 

So many holes

 

Deep, cool holes, the narrative might say

 

Crawl in like Charlie Patton,

Helena, Arkansas

 

The rice fields float at midnight

 

I believe the fog

 

 

What It Takes To Watch A Mushroom

Sprout Up Out Of Nowhere

 

a tolerance
for rain

the patience
of dirt

most of all,

belief

in trolls
with a map of nowhere

 

 

It Was Late And We Stopped Talking,

But We Didn't Hang Up

 

I thought of

telephone poles

strung along

the ditches,

some tilted

as if drunk

or merely weary of

all these words,

leaning,

picking up

a distant

signal from a time

when they rustled,

trees.

 

 

Levon Helm Reborn As A Snapping Turtle

 

slowly

fiercely

rocking out

a rhythm

in the wet

and glittering

grass towards the pond

wet-grass

mud-good

morning-cold

the old

tune

blood-thick

his heart

pumps

 

 

without having to be someone we aren’t

because we won’t have to be who we are.

 

Say for instance in the restroom of a public library.

 

Maybe I’d get really lucky

and some of these women might even read

 

the poem I wrote to them about the

women I don’t really want to know

 

and I could save myself a lot of trouble

and not even have to show up.

 

Two Poems by Lynn DeTurk

                                                         

 

Coachella Valley Tamales

 

Adella brings meat precooked  we sigh and sniff  the musky scent while her blender buzzes on liquefy for a long time to mix seasonings  I knead masa pre-preparado 10 pounds of it until I think my arms will fall off   in my big kitchen the men sit at the counter with cervezas  women smear masa on corn husks  Victor pours clamato juice into his glass  chevala he calls it  licks his lips and drains half his drink  he tilts his head  checks ceiling height  floor tiles  oriental carpets  rotates his barstool  says aloud to himself  All this space for only two people   my privilege weighs heavy on me and I look away  busy myself laying a line of carnitas lengthwise on the spread masa  roll and fold the husks of corn until all are used up and now there are five dozen tamales stacked on the counter ready to steam   I found the chasm between cultures in this valley difficult to navigate but with my excited announcement Estudio Espaniol! I discovered a tamale in my hand  my refrigerator hard to close   Adella leans close to me and whispers Next time we cook, it will be enchiladas.

 

 

Detroit 1997

 

i

                        I drive alone

on deserted streets

                        past buildings reminiscent

of Dresden

 

rubbled litterlots 

houses burned to blackened

shells  sidewalks where no-one

walks now

 

                        Detroit expires

                        consuming itself

through arson after

bleeding white into the suburbs

 

the tax base has eroded

city services have disappeared

the Governor has declared

a State of Emergency

 

                        a mourning sky fades

through indigo to pink

without benefit of birdsong

or childsong

 

the city lies quiet  

exhausted 

an aging lion that can no longer

protect its pride

 

my arrival breaks

                        the silence   my car door

is like a pistol shot followed

by graveled footsteps

 

 

 

 ii

 

                        warned away by gang symbols

aerosoled red and black across

                        a knobless door   I knock  

announce myself by name

                                                        

Hattie Mae refuses to leave

intends to spend

her last days in the front room

recliner    

 

yesterday she showed

me her gun

 

                        my bag bangs

against my leg

I gag     the front hall 

heavy with odor

 

sweet  pitiless gangrene

grabs my throat

                        I fight with shallow breaths

                        know Hattie’s toes

will peel off today

 

I kneel  expose those

bent and broken twigs 

see the lesion spread

up her ashy leg

 

sunlight breaks in through

curtain cracks

far off a siren

accuses  impotence

 

 

Three Poems by Barbara Lightner

  

Scenes out of Childhood

Breathe-in experience, breathe-out poetry

                                            --Muriel Rukeyser

 

The day the heat came

            I could see it

                cut from morning

     into the fields,

                    withering the cotton.

I was ten.

 

I walked down the road

            by the widder’s place,

                        knew from her wail

            the heat in her snakebite,

bandages fouled from

             an old war’s blood;

 

went through the worn-out pasture

            choked with onion grass;

     heard the sweet lowing of mmmboss

                  by the tarpaper shack;

 

knew the harsh carols

     of grasshoppers among

                 tiny blueflowers

          against the dead hay;

 

saw the heat in

            Baby’s glaze-eyed vomiting;

and in Bea Mama’s baby

       with the three-inch navel,

making her sickly, they said;

 

went down the blacktop by the Colonel’s house

            where I saw his mad daughter,

     run out and howl

across the fields of red-baked clay

            in some determination of despair.

 

At home that afternoon I peeked

            into the solarium,

               cool, and with what voices!

        the sweet tinkle of laughter,

the garden dresses,

           the wide-brimmed hats.

I saw the president of the garden club

            call the meeting to order;

heard the ladies praising the soon-coming

                 wild orange persimmon within

               a brown wood, and the honeysuckle,

its little trumpets of amaranthine flower

           that would blare beauty throughout

            a good God’s imagined fields.

 

    I still see them,

      those ladies,

  under the big-bladed

     slow-moving fan,

        iced in tea.

 

 

 

Eliza of the Times

Why, then the world’s mine oyster

 which I with sword will open.

--- Pistol, Midsummer Night’s Dream, II, ii                     

 

Eliza had no pry to oyster time,

her mermaid days had gone.

A sea change gave her brusque awakening,

crushed among crashed shells,

a thousand missives sent,

all gone into a grave

ocean.

 

All the world once did offer times

to fit her. Then crashed the breakwater.

Eliza was down-dressed.

Long her languish

among dry beds

the misfortuned clime

did make for her.

 

 

 

Belief Is the Season of Metaphor

 

Bring out the children, their ponies,

ring circus bells ‘round us today!

bring us belief, let us play.

 

Sing out the bright words,

trumpet them; blare them

clear ‘round the world, allelu!

let none us betray, let us pray.

 

Bring luster

to the tarnished divine,

hail to us this

renewborn day.

 

Bring answers to

what our metaphors play to,

the circus pulled up and gone.

 

Three Poems by Veronica Zabscynski

 

 

Love Poems I Wrote For You

 

I.

 

You left me a love letter

on the kitchen table:

 

I’ll pick up dish soap

on the way home.

 

II.

 

The odd impulse after

I sneeze while you’re not

home and I long

 

to hear your voice

say Bless you.

 

III.

 

Sometimes, you forget to ask

how my day was but

 

in case you were, in fact, wondering

it’s better now. Thank you

for kissing me.

 

IV.

 

I wish I were wood and could

snap into fire and I’d warm you

 

so you wouldn’t have to sleep

with your socks on tonight.

 

V.

 

I keep forgetting

to say thank you

for putting the dishes away.

 

  

How to Masturbate in 2014

 

We are the children of terrorist attacks,

a generation dirty as Doritos ingredients.

Here is to the Facebook statuses we make

every single anniversary.

 

There is yet another shooting.

Learn to duck, elementary students,

grocery shoppers, coming attraction watchers.

We only know that he liked country music

and made reservations in his name

 

but we still cry siren tears and wear

our mourning like red lipstick:

Look at us! Over here, at us! We weep so well.

We really capitalize on our grief and

87 people like it.

 

The local news app has a knack

for always informing us of

the latest dead child.

 

There’s a vulgarity in reading about dead children,

about chemical weapons, about suicide bombers

so we don’t read the news notification.

 

We don’t read about the latest dead children,

who weren’t really children at all

when the plane went down.

The media had to adjust the fatality total

by three to account for the infants with tickets.

Squashed strawberries in hefe filter.

 

All we really wanted to do was scroll

through possibilities. Unlike our parents,

we hunt for fucks on our phones.

Instant gratification has a smell, doesn’t it?

 

Tomorrow, we will make a status about the plane:

what a tragedy. It isn’t mourning if no one can like it.

 

 

 

Never

 

I was due on April 1st but, perhaps,

in a misinterpretation of the holiday,

I refused to come out for two whole weeks,

pent up inside like a hippie protesting

The Vietnam War, and birth.

 

Or, instead, it was that my habit of doing tomorrow

what could be accomplished today began

in the womb. Still umbilical corded,

I would rewrite to do lists, never crossing off be born.

 

When I die, they’ll never get around

to burying me. Some gravedigger never

crossing off bury her. Some starving worms

never crossing off dinner.

 

Someone never crossing off mourn.

Never crossing off be born.

 

I put off calling for so long that

they had to use a hose to turn me inside out

and now I know what it looks like

to rinse someone through a pipe.

 

Never crossing off be born.

Bury her. Mourn. Never and never

and never.

You are never.

 

Four Poems by James Grabill

 

 Global Trends Upside the Head

 

We’ve got ourselves a bit of a situation, with growing global deserts, consequences of sun grappling with contents, losses to future winds that defy prediction then exceed expectation.

 

The sun’s warp cracks apart in the air. Jays keep talking jay in between moves, as swimming here as we are. Much of the present is being delivered without intent further into night, where early parts of the brain keep an eye trained for the still unseen.

 

Neobiblical bones in the mammal face, emptiness in the present filled with elastic time, core-spun throes in strategic readiness, and their elements can as where they dissolve in the indivisible.

 

Hunger grows translucent, more vulnerable, and heavy with remote consequences from around the world. Multiplicity this instant settles down with dead-bolt accuracy somewhere in the gut.

 

Enciphered ramifications wheel over the carbon sink at the edges of solid ground. A still rustle of questions over the sky can be sinking a root in thermal expanse where breathing keeps us alive.

 

This must be the world ancestors thought was given to them, where they kept their camels and locomotives aimed ahead. The present empties and fills in a flash of cellular complexity.

 

 

In the Approach to 2025

 

The next generation of people’s names has been posted on the effects of civilization and the wilderness. The effort continues indefinitely. The old-faced future turns up the volume on ambience and miraculously can hear emptiness of the atmosphere call for a free-for-all fracking.

 

Archconservatives within the House vote to extend an additional absence of meaning. The pulp of it all steams between tooth-roaring crimson mirrors, the way colonies thrive where greed’s being learned.

 

The long-term finished or not symphony of limitlessness refuses to end, rewarding memory with others’ pain. One note to the next goes by in wind, as the future appears in lights mid-air, showing what to do and not do in what locations.

 

Silent witnesses in time may go by other names, the same as breath, which is an ongoing biological acceptance of elementary gases easy to overlook. The sky of storms builds further holes in the ground where the inexplicable sets up mansions.

 

The last money, the final ore, the only ropes, or you name it would know how much the more locomotive hungers ache, or how difficult it is to suffer risks to the future of others. It’s certainly tough to follow the documentary when so many devices are working at once and the new war is further off in remote territory undergoing revision as we sit here.

 

 Scent of the Afternoon Pavement

 

The anthropogenic era following high noon still has people out walking to neighborhood shops, waiting for buses in shade by the fronts of ‘50s brick buildings, people parallel-parking dark vans on somebody’s nickel, as Yakima apples fill on their root in the genome and the burning moment of sedans and trucks crawls on.

 

A small boy places his hand on an old brass handle of a door he can’t open. After a tall woman with long half-gray hair whispers to him, he steps back, realizing how small he is here, how large and unknown so much of the place remains.

 

When the shop door opens, bells ring by a Nepalese ox collar in back of a silver-green manikin in a vest of woven neon tubes glowing like uranium for a breeder reactor. The objects for sale have come from remote locations where the combustion engine ended up going with New World money and state-of-the-art arms.

 

Air in this part of the city has the scent of charred meat with tinctures of sanded Indonesian wooden joists, as if descendants have been opening black travel trunks into pools of old-time lingering, basements steaming their slow smoke of aging cardboard boxes as the spectrum of future risks and chances prisms around them.

 

 

Romney and the Nature of Light

 

Light does and doesn’t quite exist. A contiguous series of vacillations in the spectrum, it’s an emergent property of infinitesimal disturbances in make-up of the time-space cosmos, an emanation of adjustments to matter which proceeds only so fast, at a frequency that depends on relative conditions. Light’s emergence, of course, can be profound enough to inspire awe or terror in sync with a person’s state and proximity.

 

In the mix would be residuals of childhood learning gone right or wrong, or shock to wherewithal which may have flooded the cells with chemical spills knocking out thought, and so on, with the brain stumped, asking How could it have happened? Or Aren’t we all relatives, with an ancient mother in common?

 

Speaking of questions of genetic inheritance, how did candidate Romney end up taking credit for causing his effects, ignoring all he was given, the money and benefits of the community, not to mention long-term breakthroughs of evolution or labors and intelligence of anyone he’s paid? When he was just a little Romney, what was he being fed?

 

There’s this Romney and the human condition question, this Romney and seven-going-on-eight billion people question, along with inquiries waiting for takers on Romney and community necessity, Romney and Jeffersonian liberal education, Romney and mental constructs of identity, Romney and acting the opposite of Jesus in the New Testament, and so on.

 

The nature of light is to spread out, to give itself away wherever it goes. Whatever it is, a form of light exists within thinking, another kind within cells. The nature of light is to feed the world and then reveal it to itself, to keep going and keep thought going, where we’re more the same than anything else we might say.

 

 

Three Poems by Tony Walton

 

A Girl in a yellow dress

 

I saw you yesterday in a yellow summer dress,

the color of high-dosage diazepam, through the

rain-streaked window of a familiar bar, as I walked by,

somewhere in the city,

and I could swear you saw me, then turned away—

like that moment when a bird decides

not to eat from your hand.  I had not seen you since

graduation, but I thought you should know this:

 

I hit harder in schoolyard fights when

you were watching (and you did watch!)

I tackled harder in rugby matches when you

were watching.

I ran faster in races when you

were watching.

 

There is an August beach photograph of you and me,

in our 19th year, tumbling hair,  greedy as seagulls.

Maybe you’ve just been all the wild in me.

Some pictures don't come down easy from the wall.

 

It's been years of small victories and large defeats and

drinks poured, 3 cars, 2 dogs, expired drivers licenses,

landlords, mortgages, and 15 Christmases.

Are you happy as you thought you would be?

 

I’m just lying here, writing you this email on

these hard springs.  So let’s meet at that bar, tomorrow.  Yes?

Don’t worry.  All is well here,

but

there is something coming towards me

across the floor.  Oh, it just a rolling bottle of wine,

this

time.

 

There is a place in me that is never filled.

And this is where I am likely to be found.

If you can find this place - Do Come In.  

  

 

A Blink              

 

 It can take years to get things sorted out,

whatever it is or was that keeps you static.

Sitting there waiting with only your self doubt,

while all around you life moves on, you're stuck

in a slow motion scream.

 

We're all moving towards a conclusion,

it's something that our dance with destiny

cannot escape.  Sure, there you go trying to reconfigure

life's illusions.

 

All I'm trying to do is advise you—

a problem shared is a problem solved. So look in the mirror

and tell me what you see—and be honest.

 

These Questions we have and

Answers we want

they are like an Ocean and we are just floating on the surface,

fearing that we get drowned.  Can I tell you my friend—this life,

it's flying by in perpetual motion.  And what could be—

well, that can pass you by in a blink.

 

Night Scream

 

This night has nothing to be ashamed of,
and just staggered in this place at last call—
drunken and unshaven, a kind of
fuckless orgasm with no one to
tuck it in bed.

This night has roamed across concrete,
faced neon beer signs in liquored mirrors
with hollowed eyes seeking reprieve
in thirsts and pleasures sought. 
This night is curious.
This night is weak.

This night is drenched in vodka, diazepam—
forty miles from nowhere, wild and
bewildered in a ceaseless thrust.
This night aches.  But then we see this:

Two bodies galloping against each other
under cool sheets, a shudder, then
a glow of silver on her snowy thigh, drying.

A bond, however fragile.  Until morning
when it takes flight and then it's gone?

Oh, who the hell knows,
but I do know
this night will stay in bed.

 

Four Poems by W. B. Keckler

 

Ugly Man

Most flowers

give a sort of pitch

of their existence;

 

those wild ones

that live explosively

and cheap

 

have a sort

of come on,

and you're not immune,

 

driving past

in your car

banging the heads

 

that lean too far

out onto the road,

banging every leaning one.

 

Nothing is harmed,

no flower ever dies

on such a flexible

 

wild stem.

 

Don't be
stupid.

They just
spring back

 

to life.

 

Moss

Moss holds its tongue

the way poetry does not,

so moss must be prose.

 

The moss on the stone,

for example, you have just handed me,

seems composed. It seems moss

 

recollecting in tranquility

that it is moss, with a type

of ersatz thought, faux-memory.

 

That is what prose does.

It doesn't become the necessary hallucination

of the world. It stops

 

at earth. It dares less.

But is has a part of blood.

And poetry may feed on it,

 

as poetry may feed on anything.

Because poetry is a spore, a mold.

Poetry has those terrible manners

 

of pure survival

 

that spreads.

 

  

Shelter

 

Now that autumn is here

and will take its silver spoon

to death again, at Halloween,

I'm remembering the white cat.

 

Midsummer, I photographed grandiose graves

in our city's oldest, city of a cemetery,

and the wild bushes that threw

melodramatic arms around them.

 

I remember how a white cat darted

from between a husband and wife,

apparently domiciled under a bush that grew there.

Meet their protected ghost child!

 

It had found a place between

two fastnesses. Parents. No one visits

that century, that cemetery, anymore.

Well, birds and mice do. Hence the stray.

 

Also, drug dealers drift through.

I know someone locks the gate at sundown.

A sign warns you. For a while, it was a ho stroll.

Get your kicks amid undroll Victoriana?

 

I think not. Custodians of this overgrown necropolis,

home to Harrisburg's generals and matrons,

must sleep all day, if they exist.

But that sleek ghost of a white cat

 

will face bitterness of winter blasts

in that terrible place

between the dead, childless ones

who have adopted him.

 

And the only shelter or love

they can give the creature

is that pittance of a bush

that grows between them

 

like their mutual neglect,

which I find so weirdly touching.

 

And yes their stones actually are.

 

Weirdly. Touching.

 

 

The Slug

 

Slugs carry unendorsable magic.

 

The sun is my bottom.

It steers me to sweet delay,

and the suddenness I avoid.

 

My service is wanton and brave,

but hidden under a leaf.

 

I am of learned, slimy touch.

 

I awake and my coyness

touches plant springs.

 

The world is green and malleable

always, but especially nights.

 

I will make more funny selfies

 

using the moonlight.

 

My silver lines will gleam

come morning,

 

when I am pretend-gone,

 

and you curse me

like other human idiots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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