Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Five Untitled Poems By Simon Perchik

Simon Perchik is an attorney whose poems have appeared in Partisan Review, The Nation, Poetry, The New Yorker, and elsewhere. His most recent collection is Almost Rain, published by River Otter Press (2013).  For more information, including free e-books, his essay titled “Magic, Illusion and Other Realities” please visit his website at www.simonperchik.com

For a split-second these steps
are at a loss, half thorns
half holding back just enough

in case you come too close
and your shadow no longer means
you still face the sun

the way this stairway will dissolve
as rainwater, would close your eyes
if there was time

--where you wade is already wood
smoothed by the same descent
streams are famous for

can tell from a single stone
on the bottom for years
following under footmarks then flowers

that stay open alongside the others
till suddenly you are ankle-deep
breathing out again, there.

You tell this ice the glass
is breaking up, to take
one breath more :a splash

starting out, half as shoreline
the other frozen underneath
so you don’t drown the way each shadow

still has the scent from seawater
though the frost
is already holding your hand

face down, deeper and deeper
in pieces not yet apart
--you yell breathe in, let its cold

wash over you, in you, become
water again, a mouth again
and against your lips, alone.

You will hide, try
point to your forehead
almost remember where the mourners

put the dirt back
so even you won’t know the difference
--you need more dirt :a sky

with one cloud then another
filled with stones and gasping for air
so you will think it’s the grasses

that have forgotten where to go
have nothing left to do
the way funerals still come by

as if rain no longer mattered at night
and the kiss someone once gave you
--you won’t eat anymore :the breeze

will step back, go slack, cover you
though there’s not enough room
with distances and longing.

You sprinkle the dead, closer than usual
as if something inside this rock
is just now learning to survive

without roots, already talks
about lying awake, afraid your fingers
will crack it open for the mouth

to cover the one that’s started
the way night over night your hands
spread out as the distance

that empties only into river water
so it comes up each morning
held in place, not yet breathing.

And though the dirt never dries
a simple circle makes it easy
--your fingertip begins to warm

then later the emptiness
it’s used to --by heart
curves in as if the grass

knows nothing about the tiny waves
leaving shore alone and the old life
already around your shoulders

--the dead never expected your lips
so close, on the bottom
will never know what they wanted.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Three Poems By Roy Bentley

Roy Bentley  has received awards and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. His poems have appeared in the Southern Review, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, Sou’wester, American Literary Review and elsewhere. He has published nine chapbooks and three books of poetry, including The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana, which won the White Pine Poetry Prize and was published by White Pine in 2006. (The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana). His fourth collection, Starlight Taxi, is the winner of the 2012 Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry and is currently availble for purcvhase from Lynx House Press (http://lynxhousepress.org/how-to-order) and from Amazon.com (Starlight Taxi). 

Don’t It Seem Like You’re Never Gonna Leave or Get Out on Your Own

                                                —Bob Martin, “My Father Painted Houses”

All night the basement walls pulsed, a nebula of blues and blood-reds.
That summer my father and I had rolled them with five gallons of sealer
the Sears paint salesman named Sea Green, so I knew it was the drug.
It would be life on lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD-25) for a while.
A single bed with sheets pillows blankets from J.C. Penney was a lifeboat
beside a crate for a nightstand. The next few years would be a test, I knew,
to see why my heart wasn’t in it, working my Burger King grill job, shutting
the fuck up, waiting a selective service letter. And while we’re talking hearts,
mine raced with more than the normal violence. On that boat-bed I wanted
to lash it down, my wildly beating mammalian heart, against the battering.
Guttering light from a candle-half threw zebras on a wall then gazelle herds,
though this was Ohio, and the shadows should have registered as black bears.
Like the one they shot that summer by the B & O tracks at the edge of town.
The zebras and gazelles stampeded hour after hour to a Stones soundtrack,
an LP spinning with the volume as low as it could be and Jagger’s vocals,
Keith Richard’s guitar, Charlie Watt’s drums, still be audible in the dim.
I couldn’t trust the world around me, but I knew my 18-year-old heart
wouldn’t fail me. I trusted my body’s newness and originality. This
was an inside job, robbing the hours between midnight and 6 am,
eventually turning off the Rolling Stones, trying to read Siddhartha.
My neocortex alternated between stupor and the Untethered Moment
wherein the words on the page announced we shall all be born again,
a zebra become a bear then the boy from Ohio hearing Mick Jagger
sing how noiseless desperation isn’t satisfaction and never will be.
Being 18 is like tripping in a basement bedroom: You do it alone
because you have to, and for as long as you have to. No longer.
Some of it stays with you, a kind of sea-green sealer onto which
you project shapes and patterns you read as your life this time.

Amarillo By Morning

A friend tells me that she cries for this one. Says
she will inevitably tear up and the-spigots-open weep
for a George Strait rodeo-rider hard-luck country song
where they take the singer’s saddle in Houston and then
he breaks a leg in Santa Fe. She chokes up for a song
whose toponymy is a list of where a weary protagonist
has received deep-tissue bruises or a fractured femur.
I don’t have one friend who doesn’t feel like this,
but she says so. And, because she does, we can see
that snow falling outside the window of the shop
where she cuts my hair—and the run-off melt
of snowflakes—is what it is. Not the other:
tears for explicable suffering we’ll see again.
Dostoyevsky was an epileptic. His episodes,
the seizures, he writes in a letter, were preceded
by moments like those before rain or a thunderstorm
when the air around a body is charged. Scented of ozone.
These moments may have reminded him of Enlightenment.
May have redeemed, ostensibly, his identity as Sufferer.
Whatever the case, he was relearning who he’d become
or was becoming as a result of the misery handed him;
this followed by a sense of the Spiritual that, then, cues
the mind and body to their shared task. It’s downright
Garden of Gethsemane, feeling the thrown-together world
about to open. I felt that just once. In Pikeville, Kentucky.
I’d been drinking with another friend. We’d killed a bottle
of a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant.
His then-wife had deserted him. This was later. I was in a motel,
alone, in the dim bathroom, head hanging over the toilet bowl.
I had puked the worm, the New Thing that belongs inside us.
That moist, redelivered token maybe best described as hirsute.
What was missing was someone to cue a George Strait song.

Taking the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test

Around me, the pencil-tapping straights and freaks of the Midwest
chattered as a proctor, in army sergeant’s uniform, handed out tests.
I’d been diligently throwing up a scaffolding of anger, earned or not,
at every factory where I hired on that summer until I was fired or quit
for the good and moral reason that 1972 was a chance to be pissed off,
with cause, at the world and your country. I raised my hand. Asked—
with a big, insolent grin—what the acronym A.S.V.A.B. stood for.

Some background for those who’ve forgotten or never knew: the war
in Vietnam was ongoing, the Draft a hangman’s noose around the neck.
The idea was to score well enough to qualify for enlistment in a branch
of the armed forces other than the army or marines who were dying or
returning stateside changed in ways that no one wanted to talk about.
It was August. The armory was white-hot. Not one fan in the place.
The proctor was angry, too. He wanted the whole thing to be over.

Said, Any other questions? and ignored me. Shook his head.
Then we opened our booklets. Started marking our responses.
I answered the math section without hesitation. Finished early.
Stared out the barred institutional windows. At the floor where
waxed-shiny squares of tile called up a question about triangles,
how to figure the hypotenuse. Then came the vocabulary part.
I recall chuckling. Thinking, Who doesn’t know that word?

We weren’t asked to define killing or complicit or imperialism.
Not even democracy. I rested my No. 2 pencil. Looked around.
I was pretty clever, I thought. Had my whole life ahead of me.
A boy—that’s what we were then: boys—seated next to me
glanced over. Wanted to copy. To cheat. And so I let him.
I didn’t think I was saving his life. Not really. America
had disappointed us. If I was wrong, so were we all.