RopeWalk Press Samples
My man carves belt buckles out of good tin. Folds it over flat and then gouges out the patterns. Says he chalks them designs out on his cell floor all day and lays awake all night thinking of me with his hot hands. I believe it.
Last April he sold eight at the rodeo. Eight buckles sold, eighty dollars for the fund. Says he did out the math and he can have more than two grand when he gets out. I like to think of this and sometimes I don't. I like to think of: my man's work done by his rough hands, hanging over some hood boy's pants, the buckle shining down Elysian Fields on a stolen bike, flying free that way, dirty with oyster grit from the Market that way. I don't like it when I think of: some brat wearing it on St Charles, catching a streetcar, all glowing in the Louisiana night, buckle polished clean. Makes me crazy. I keep an eye out for them buckles that's his but people think I'm looking dirty at them and they cover their crotches, turn away. I would too.
A Man Worthy of Your Attention
David James Poissant
Ahead, a child stands beside the road. Cam slows the truck to a halt and rolls down the window. The girl steps forward. She looks over her shoulder, then back at us. She is barefoot and her face is smeared with dirt. She wears a brown dress and a green bow in her hair. A string is looped around her wrist and from the end of the string floats a blue balloon.
"Hi there," Cam says. He leans out the window, his hand extended, but the child does not take it. Instead, she stares at his arms, the coiled dragons. She takes a step back.
"You're scaring her," I say.
Cam glares at me, but he returns his head to the cab and his hand to the wheel and gives the girl his warmest smile. "Do you know where we could find Cherry Road?" he says.
"Sure," the girl says. She pumps her arm and the balloon bobs in response. "It's that way," she says, pointing in the direction from which we've come.
"About how far?" Cam asks.
Cam glances at the cereal box. "That's the one," he says.
"Oh," the girl says, and for a moment she is silent. "You're going to visit the Lizard Man. I seen him. I seen him once."
Cam looks at me. I shrug. We look at the girl.
"Cute kid," I say. We turn onto Cherry.
Museé de Zoologie, Lausanne, Switzerland
Past the dusty dioramas of otters and sloths,
Some characters come back in
from the Green Night like the low brown
of the slow gray trains & sunken
salvage yards of Omaha.
Corn, caskets & Max.
and then not appear. Most are seen
Ominous belly-growls from deep
I am writing this last.
I failed in so many ways.
I wasn’t native, and was too young
brio of polyglot crackers, refugees,
elastic gastropod palatable. My embouchure
to signal meals, a change of wind.
But I loved its tender pinks,
the colors of secret human tissue
and sunset. I wanted to unroll
or Rooster, Hawk-wing or Queen.
I wanted to understand why
underwater, gorgeous for no reason.
|Charlie Brown in the
Dead of Night
This howling makes me shiver, but it ought to be beautiful.
I wish he would stop it. And you’re out there, too,
little girl, smiling over sticker albums and apple slices.
Who is it takes care of us? Who mends trees
when their limbs crack, who thinks of a question like that?
I know worry is a way of filing, but the folders are too long
or too narrow and none of my frets ever fit. The space
around my head at night is easier to work with,
blankets piled on top of me so I can barely see the rise
of my chest. They don’t mend them, that’s who.
I don’t know which is worse, the barking or the silence.
Tomorrow, maybe, I can win your eye
with animal crackers or a pencil with sparkling foil clefs.
And what good is that, the blessing eye that might not see
me surrounded by autumn’s energy and nearly bursting
with rhapsodic blood? It’s a lot to look for.
There’s a lot to see in people, the way they hover
at the edge of knowing and oblivion, the way they keep on
clipping hair and making appointments, clocks with hearts.
It’s definitely a tick when I see you, your dress smoothed
over invisible knees, tick the way I feel you know me.
I’ve danced with girls before, swaying lightly back
and forth, just on the edge of what it means
to fill my body, of being poured in like wet cement.
Then worry filled up my shoes, but it was almost pretty,
a haze like sundown or chiffon before I had to sit down.
If life is a series of escapes to the punchbowl, I want to ask
out loud, is this it? But what kind of question is that?
I’ll be fixed tomorrow when the day is mine, opened up
like the white cream of a cookie. Keep trading
lunches and mittens with me—what is love but one
big cloakroom—because mine is the longing
of a Hercules let loose, mine is the fear of a burst
oil candle, bright with flame and dim with the rupture.
He’ll keep it up. Until I’m out there barefoot
with flashlight and dogdish, or until sunlight sticks up
unruly, ready as a willing head waiting to be combed.
This poem is brought to you by the letter C.
Cattle egret, Big Bird says, cetacean,
the word squeaking like wet whale skin.
Big Bird keeps it real—his thug-life strut.
Do you like giants?
Only the small ones, the boy says.
Chinese catfish, cassava, cassowary.
He’s an intellectual, spends his days off
in coffeehouses, crossing and uncrossing
the long orange tubes of his legs, discussing
Chomsky, conditional freedom, and Cervantes
with anyone who will listen. He marches
against the war, a thousand people
at his back, chanting
Catastrophe, cruise missile, children.
Big Bird refuses to fly south for the winter,
puts on his scarf and heads out the door.
You can’t fool me, the boy says.
I know Big Bird’s not real.
It’s just a suit with a little bird inside.
|A Hush of Something Endless
One of those parties where I was the stranger.
The sightseers had faces from dreams.
Burt Reynolds mixed dirty martinis.
Elvis stuck his chubby fingers in the fondue.
A barefoot Madonna danced beneath
crimson lights, her breasts and hips red shivers
with every turn. I watched the city unfold
like a palm full of glitter, my thoughts glued
in the vagueness of unmaking. But the stoned-rhine
Dolly Parton kept bringing more and more
bottles of wine. Pretty soon
I was terrifically drunk, tripping from room to room
like one of Faulkner's minor fools.
I told ridiculous lies to anyone who would listen.
I'm an ex-con, I said to a lawyer who fanned
his starched collars and loosened his tie.
I hot-wired cars in the Pittsburgh of my youth.
A woman with a bedroom in her voice whispered
her demands in my ear. I'm an orphan, I said.
I was stolen by gypsies from my native Ukraine.
I spoke without regret. I was stuck in the sap
of twenty-something and alone. It was my first night
in the new city minus friends and a sensible shirt.
When the hostess got fed-up with my shit,
she showed me the door. Sleep it off on the lawn,
she said. It was a good idea, yet as I stretched
myself out in the cool, my mind sliding
down that blue rail of otherness that makes you
a stranger even to yourself, a cigarette flared
in the dark. The hush of a woman's voice.
Hey, like a bored guest on late-night TV.
Tell me all about you.
I pressed my hands to the grass. I was trying to keep from
spinning away. My name's Vincent, I said,
where should I begin?
Click here to order.
Nicole Louise Reid, Editor