in the garden wet with rain
The rain is really coming down now
and everything is overflowing
spilling out from the lips of upturned things
that sucked it in
in a dizzy plug hole vortex.
And so it soaks right through
the pinkish pots and honeycomb bricks
trickles bonfire sticks licks the line
and rolls across the tongues of the forgotten
footwear and goldfish blowing bubbles up
through hot concrete pond water
teased to swell and rise
to wallow sated under a low moon.
Her watch is broken,
the spin spun out, the hours slowing,
filling up with the brush of her breasts
against stranger’s shoulders, slipping
them meaningless meals, still she wears it
tight on her wrist, biting
its sallow band in her flesh.
It’s too late to worry
about time. The bar’s closing
and daylight’s coming in with the tide.
The Night Before the Funeral
Tomorrow the boys will carry you
down to the plot we bought
when we were young. To me, you
look the same as you did the night
we made it under the willow
by your father’s garage.
I miss the way you laughed
when the dog came looking
for us. What am I supposed to do
when you become a smudge?
Justin Wade Thompson
THE MONEY SAINT’S UNLUCKY DAUGHTER
she loves like moth wings
and takes between my legs just after breakfast
and wipes me off on a shirt.
the whole place is a doormat
and everything is broken or cracked.
i like it this way.
she can’t decide the simplest things
like which side of her chest is the head
or tail-end of a coin.
the answer is NEITHER.
it’s no riddle.
but then she can tell you the latin names
for anything on two legs.
and can open up a sheep’s heart
with the greatest of ease.
i choke her and squeeze salt water from her
veins and it’s like clipping toenails to her.
the world would think twice
but she’s got it just under her tongue.
the answers to everything.
every thing that has to do with
save her and i.
those precious things
THE FIRST TEAR
You still pause and suffer while deciding
In the creased holes you add
First one cent
Then one silence
Certain lessons pass through the time
Here then a sense
Of being afraid to grope among twigs
Like going when staying doesn’t work out
And the air tightens
The throat won’t shout if the night doesn’t knock
Sprinkled ashes tell about hearts
Flaked, lost and looking away
After shedding the first tear you defeat the last one
In the days to come
You are sliding and trembling in me
Pick me up again from these old shoes
I have owned for ages
while lullabies fly on top of the tree
looking at sorrow
I know you are weak today
I know you consider my legs like two liars
running fast away to avoid the truth
Charles Brooks III
Jasmine tea with milk,
more cream between sips,
the cup occupies her nightstand.
None of these pillows match.
A painting of anorexic suffering
hangs as a hateful irony.
We and the floorboards
dirty sutra @ 2am
I congratulate the grass on growing,
it says nothing.
Ten minutes go by before I leave the worm
in its dirt after thanking it for composting my
The fence just stands there
after I compliment its paint.
The birds won’t sing songs with me.
Even after asking politely the rain won’t stop.
When I go inside you ask me if this was a new
I got a haircut.
Just before a seizure,
I can smell oranges.
Like I’m Don Corleone
shot in “the Godfather,”
falling on a citrus
cart. Ever since I first
saw that film three years ago,
it’s made the odd grand mal
a little more bad ass.
on a friend
cried for the first time this year
and it made me feel full of love
splitting at the seams with anger i cried
and was full of love
and now he is gone
Gale Acuff, Ph.D.
I don’t have anybody to love me
anymore now that my dog’s dead and not
just dead but killed and not just killed but run
over and not just run over but smashed
dead on the highway in front of our house.
I found him when my bus rolled home from school,
spotted him far ahead up the road, knew
though I couldn’t see well for the distance
he wasn’t a rock or crossing turtle
or ‘possum or squirrel or rabbit or
cat. That’s my dog up there, I mouthed, at first
a speck, then a spot, then a splatter, then
Caesar, just a mutt but my mutt. Father
and Mother say, No, you can’t keep him, when
he wanders up, during a rainstorm, from
nowhere. He’s mighty scared. I wonder whose
he is. He licks my fingers like nipples
and whines and whines even though I hold him
in my lap and steal milk from the ‘fridge and
corn flakes from the cupboard and mash ’em good
and feed him. I hide him in the garage
and Father finds us together. Boy, what
did we tell you about keeping that dog?
I’m in a corner but I won’t give up
I’ll take care of him, I say. Please don’t hit
me. Please don’t send him away. He’s puny.
Please don’t kill him. For some reason he stops
dead and turns on his heel and walks away
and returns with Mother. They stand over
us. We’re in their shadow. You’re scaring us,
I say. He needs your help. We both do. Uh,
alright, Mother says. Oh, alright, Father
says. They leave us alone and I’m a new
master. Didja hear that, boy, I say. We’re
safe now. That night I sneak him in the house
and we sleep together. In the morning
there’s dog shit on the floor but I don’t care.
I clean it up and he didn’t do it
on purpose. I’ll teach him. I love Caesar.
It’s summer and there’s no school so there’s time
to spend with him. Then a few months pass and
I’m coming home on the bus and there he
is, or isn’t, dog in death’s body, on
the highway. I get off the bus and wait
for it to heave away, and go to him
–he really needs me now but of course he
doesn’t because it’s too late. I peel him
off the blacktop and carry him behind
the garden and get the shovel and dig
a hole that’s more than a hole because it’s
a grave for my friend and I put him in
and fill the hole with dirt and on the Day
of Judgment, if that means anything to
animals, God will call him to account
for his life and Caesar will say, in barks,
There’s not a lot to account for because
I was run over before I was grown,
and I just know that he’ll be forgiven
(and maybe put in a good word for me)
a lot sooner than I’ll be, that’s for sure.
That night at supper, which feels like my last,
I pick at my food. I’m sorry that dog
of yours is dead, says Father. Mother says
that she’s sorry, too, but life does go on.
It does, for a fact, Father says. Well, not
for Caesar, I say. I’m crying into
my candied yams. Better go to your room,
says Father. Big boys don’t cry, says Mother.
Now I’m sitting on the floor where Caesar
shat the first night I held him close to me,
as if he’s been my soul in a body
and I was hugging him back into me.
I’m still sniffing as the sun disappears.
Heaven is still alive up there somewhere
and Caesar’s right there in it, chasing sticks
or digging up bones or snapping at bees.
I’m still his master, in a way. I’ll see
him again, even though I’m pretty sure
I’m going to land in Hell. I’ll beg for
a few seconds with him before I’m cast
into fiery Hades down there. But
now I finish my history homework
and wait for Father to come inspect it
and tell me what I’ve done wrong and ask me
why I’m printing it, not using cursive.
I can answer that: because nobody
loves me who’s still alive, I’ll say. His jaw
will sag but he’ll straighten it and tell me
how lucky I was to have had a dog
even for such a short time. And how I
never had a dog when I was a boy.
And then I’ll say, I feel sorry for you
–poor Father! And he’ll probably spank me
with my jeans and undershorts down to my
ankles but that’s nothing compared to what
Caesar knew that drove him in a rainstorm
right up to our front door. What a good boy.
Man Fights Sleep/Poem
Man fights sleep
while sitting on a train,
nodding and rocking his head
like a drunken string puppet.
His eyes close slowly like glaciers
and then suddenly spring open
as the train rocks; surprised, blinks,
and then as quickly slips shut again;
a fight that sets his face
as still as clay.
Man fights to write poem;
inspired in the moment. Now I’m
worried it’s not enough but
the moment stays with me all evening,
my fingers thawing on the keyboard.
Such a small moment really but
its persistence makes this man
give in and write and
remember it. So this poem
Burgess Stanley Needle
They told me to keep an eye on the white guy
The new one they hired for the dye room
Keep him from being killed or dismembered
Near the big steel vats where velour tossed and turned
Changing colors with each pinch of German dye
Until the cloth matched whatever the chemist gave us
He never took deep breaths
The new white guy
As if every piece of night air was poison
But he smelled the cilantro from my bag
Every little bite of mine was better
Than all his bologna and soft bread
He was so happy when we got the color right
I had to explain that milagro meant miracle
Then we had to add 2000 pounds of salt
And sulphuric acid to make it stay true
His arms so puny I had to help with each
Hundred pound bag and he almost burned
Himself with the acid and this guy was
In college I couldn’t believe it
He was better than the cable channels
I swear he cried when Domingo got hit
With a wave of caustic ash but I was the one
Who held the hose until he was clean
None of us thought the new guy would return
Next day twelve hours later there he was
Shit-eating grin in place like he won a war
So I gave him a few chips during the break
Jesus didn’t the guy have any friends
Now he was with me all the time
We even ate together on top of the salt
Out back and he talked about the stars
I laughed and gave him some salsa fresca
For that stupid bologna I thought he was
Going to kiss me
We got a job to do I told him
Wait he said there’s an eclipse of the moon
I’ll get used to him if he’s careful
And doesn’t get killed during my next shift
The Height of Winter
Tonight’s fog will frost my windshield
by morning. In between
I lie on the wife side
of the bed. It’s not quite mine:
the mattress springs for another body.
As I sleep, I shed my scent.
I crystallize against the linen.
The right one won’t run to it.
He’ll stand by the wayside.
Awaiting sustains. Off the rooftops
the sunspots will dry
all the rain that pooled.
Out in the clover, the snake
Busy Mom’s Suicide Note
I left supper on the stove. You may want to warm it up.
Greg- I took care of all the arrangements. Your good suit is at the cleaner.
Jamie- Don’t forget your violin lesson- Thursday.
Scott – Be sure to take the clothes out the washer and put them in the dryer.
I left the ticket for the dry cleaning on the island in the kitchen.
P.S. – Peroxide will probably get that blood out the carpet.
And I wondered,
as the wind stirred,
suddenly full of plans,
if the window
ever gets bored
of this view.
We sit on these porch steps,
Touching ankle, knee, hip and shoulder.
With sunken chests and sunken stomachs and
Our hearts sit the deepest, in the bottom of our coffee cups.
What a wonderful mess we are
Bare feet lay flat, like birds on craggy rocks our toes
Curl over the edge of the middle concrete step
In these smoky evenings of sunsets in streaks of ember,
Staggering traffic, distant laughter, scarred shins
Scarred hearts, heads, steps
Count the steps across the room
Count the steps from you to me
Count how many times we’ve
Made such wonderful bonfires of ourselves;
Not one burns as bright as tonight