The Bus Downtown at Noon
I was getting acquainted with
the anti-tobacco motivational speaker
ex-smoker I’d seen in the newspaper ad
When a new passenger
plopped down between us,
sloppy, momentarily dangerous.
He apologized through a lacquer of alcohol,
his tongue stumbling,
his slow reflexes reeking of urine.
His deep complexion was riddled with pock marks
where I hid
while he posed nonsensical questions.
And then he settled into a poem,
reciting precisely in meter and rhyme,
a procession of Alaskan animal culture
that charmed me to a smile.
“You’re a poet,” I said when he reached the end,
not quite like when Ginsberg
found Harold Norse in the subway,
but it as our moment on the bus.
He agreed, and opined his performance
wasn’t bad “for a savage.”
“And who are you?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” it told him, though it’s no longer true.
“Do you travel around the world?”
“From time to time, I do.”
“I wish I wasn’t drunk when I met you,” he lamented
and repeated that
before thanking the bus driver
and disappearing towards
the low-income apartments.
call it magic
you taste like morning breath
you smell like fast food grease
and i want you here but
i want you centuries away from me
i conjured you back into being
my pen colored you in
as you toed the edge of reality
but i want to undo this spell
this surreal sidebar conversation
has me waiting for the curtain drop
for the cards to flutter to the
floor, for that black top hat
you can climb back into
i’m the kid caught
knuckles-deep in the cookie jar
and you were gnawing my fingers off
before i could jerk my hand away
July, With You
Sleeping without blankets because
Missouri was drowning us deeply.
That’s how I’d like to remember you.
Draped together in a daydream.
The curve of your lashes behind your
glasses, your teeth when you’re laughing,
your freshly-showered smell.
In bed, we have a universe to ourselves.
Legs overlapping in tender familiarity.
Every stroke of fondness can be traced back
to the shedding of our second skins,
to inviting you in, to sinking
like the love and heat are palpable.
I have an offering for you,
and this time the house isn’t
filling up with smoke.
My hands are lifted, palms up,
and spilling over
with every pretty word
I could ever present to you.
A cigarette hangs from your lips;
how I’d love to crumble everything
that could ever hurt you, how I’d love
to kiss it all to pieces.
December Journal: Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Morning wakes with wide ears cocked up at
reverberations of its present
tense. Tense with the shimmering presence
of its hollow blare, the train wails
along ears’ vanishing point. In the
crackly crisp air, wind chimes jingle small
random swirls of climbing overtones.
Horizon echoes proximity.
Proximity calls horizon back.
Up through its tunnel of filament
nerves, ears swirl, as they score blots across
the yard from the sun’s long shadows’ chimes.
Nerves hum air’s cold plaint. Snapping a shot . . .
its shot . . . now . . . now flits across the brain.
Old Woman Watching
When our limbs mingled
salt arms and ankles
and sweat-smudged nights
all the old women shouted
and the old men cried
watching, yearning for
limbs like ours —
like a girl’s first lip-lick
and a boy’s first glancing
so were we imagination’s
we were imagination’s
I am an old woman watching
shouting as an old man
Bring on the heat,
dark spots on the sun,
harsh, and unforgiving.
The earth shifts and moves—
The oceans bubble over—
We wait until
the sun drops, our
temperature rise, our
bodies wet and tangled.
We press on until dawn.
Your attention please:
we are standing momentarily
waiting for signal clearance.
Here, one stranger sleeps
beside another sleeping stranger;
beyond them, a map that extends
red lines of passage, crossing behind
one body and connecting with the other.
In the underground, a steel machine
hesitates, meditates, croons an electric
travel song of pilgrimage on wheels —
we expect to be moving shortly.
Here, a young man plays DJ
for an audience of strangers, his head
grooving to the beat, hands conducting
perhaps the locomotive, perhaps the
passage of time.
In the underground, a surge of life
erupts, bodies thrusting sideward,
forward, an uproar of sea legs, hands
reaching for poles, handles, each other.
And here: an accident, an apology,
a burst of light scattered upon the pilgrims;
the conductor lowers his arms and gazes
out into the crowd, out beyond the strangers
and the red lines of passage.
In the underground, a young man becomes
just another stranger in transit.
another thing that did not occur
Last night, you noticed how strange it was that
the pulp in your juice got stuck between your
teeth, the hallway light flickered when you
walked, the thermostat seemed to rise up
all on its own.
You stepped out into the yard to bring out
the trash, but how strange it was that the
garbage cans had moved to the street, that the car
was running and inside, a strange man waiting
for you to come in.
Last night, you noticed how strange it was that
the bed seemed to sink beside you, the television
turned on all on its own, and you found yourself
within someone else, and yet no one was there
to be within.
How strange it was when a tongue reached in
and plucked out the pulp, some strange force
playing with the lights and the heat and your body
as you lied in the bed and could not seem
to feel me.
Jenny McBride’s poetry has appeared in The California Quarterly, Green Social Thought, The Prairie Light Review and other journals. She has also published fiction.
Sarah Marchant is a St. Louis poet who organizes her dreams in her sleep and struggles with being fully present. Keep up with her work on Twitter at @apoetrybomb.
Don Mager’s chapbooks and volumes of poetry are: To Track the Wounded One, Glosses, That Which is Owed to Death, Borderings, Good Turns, The Elegance of the Ungraspable, Birth Daybook, Drive Time and Russian Riffs. He is retired with degrees from Drake University (BA), Syracuse University (MA) and Wayne State University (PhD). He was the Mott University Professor of English at Johnson C. Smith University from 1998-2004 where he served as Dean of the College of Arts and Letters (2005-2011). As well as a number of scholarly articles, he has published over 200 poems and translations from German, Czech and Russian. He lives in Charlotte, NC.
Kate writes about the comforts of love, losses of coming apart and all that is between—the bedlam of life
JT Lachausse serves as the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Matador Review, is an assistant editor at Hotel Amerika, and is a poetry and fiction reader for The Adirondack Review. He was selected as the poetry prize winner in The Coraddi, and his work has been featured in Foliate Oak, Quail Bell Magazine, Praxis, apt, and Polaris. He has work forthcoming in Enizagam, Prairie Margins, and Hair Trigger. Originally from Aurora Sparks, Texas, he now lives in Chicago, where he attends Columbia College for Fiction Writing.