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Other notable works by Jack Martin and Todd Boss.
Bugs drop in front of my oversized feet,
moths see another light they must bow to,
black roaches recognize my dirty touch.
A colony rotates around me, ants
pitching in when gold butterflies get sick,
can’t make the flower game at the garden.
When salesmen ring my bell rhino beetles
chase them across the lawn, flying night wings
cover their aluminum siding eyes.
Telemarketers hear killer bees buzz,
ready to ransom the caller’s babies.
Friends who stray from my love and approval
find spiders in secret stationary.
Their deaths are called tropical accidents.
Mom and dad knew long ago not to peek
too closely in my cricketing closet.
What chirps lightly might erupt, blot the air
with the deadly ink of crawling bodies.
My life’s letters are exoskeletons
and blind feelers, twittering handwriting
few beings can decipher but the claw
scratching my busy swarms. I won’t give you
a veiled hat. I’ll wait here till you return –
un-stung, honey-dipped in useless knowledge.
Everyone has a fading color they love,
a green slowly evaporating from the earth,
blue tints the sea is trying to get rid of,
orange in leaves that has no chance to fall
now that moths have eaten their trees.
When we dream that we’re swimming
in that southern bay, it’s too dim to bring
back the woman in the yellow bikini
who looked at us like the only sun;
it’s far too blurred to be her lipstick,
which enameled the skin of an apple
we wanted to unpeel with our teeth.
The Picture and the Curator
He carries a tiny her inside him,
more beautiful than the full-sized
one, more hesitant about sharing
her love to him this time, less
sweet than the giant candy stick
he remembered, less giving of
the happy expressions he needed.
If he turns his brain inward toward
this portrait, she dissolves into a
whirl of green eyes and bronze skin
he can dip a gray cup into to taste
their memories: when she said he
wasn’t that bad in bed, then laughed;
when he lost her on the Washington
Mall and she said walk toward the
big white Penis; when she purred
to him, requesting a massage, “I can
give you a really good one, too.”
In a year or two, the picture will fade
into dull sepia-tones, like the one
in a locket his grandmother wore
to her grave. He’ll dust it off every
once in awhile, when a beer seems
like too great an idea and the TV
shows lovers in a park, the woman
rubbing the man’s back, “You can’t
leave me. I’ll always stay inside you.”
He folds the Polaroid, rips it three
times in two. His invisible tape
repairs it in his spirit, like he’s done
nothing at all. The curator knows
his museum. He keeps it perfect,
licks his lips at restorations late
into the night, rubs his hands joyfully
at all the new additions to come.
Hand me some new rings,
the old ones have worn out.
Another woman needs a
patently ridiculous proposal
to tell her friends, a funny
moment that’s supposed
to happen only on TV.
When she’s thrown it back,
I place it in a secret pocket,
where my other diamonds
are stored. I tear another
engagement speech out of
the dispenser, plan my next
site visit for possible love.
In the jewelry store down
the street, I look over carats,
a farmer judging produce,
hoping to pluck a good one
before settled lovers arrive
and take away the best.
Someday I’ll be a Cracker
Jack prize, bring home a
wife who won’t turn her
head from the inexplicable,
or raise eyebrows at chance
found at the box’s bottom –
that’s me, love, put me on.
The River Cracked
We sailed through the open valley,
seeing death’s shadow in a storm
we could’ve predicted if we’d thought
of anything but our desire to travel
and examine the world piece by piece
until towers assembled inside us
that understood the reaches of heaven.
The river cracked, or it was our eyes
that broke up into waves and drops.
They crashed into our boat with pupils
widening over the infinite surf,
falling on our ponchos with streams
of hard and cold dripping light.
We didn’t know which to choose:
blasting through the water’s surface
with a vision of total destruction,
blinding the shore’s houses and trees,
or freezing exposed skin like a stare
from a criminal stranger, who knows
one vicious look is all he needs.
Donald Illich has published poetry in The Iowa Review, LIT, Fourteen Hills, Passages North, Roanoke Review, Pinyon, and Cold Mountain Review. His work will appear in future issues of The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Backwards City Review, and The Sulphur River Literary Review.
Accident is landscape. Look
how rain opens the body.
Lungs’ conifers join
sunlight and wet earth.
Breath is the birdsong of ribs.
Horizon is a bell lip.
Snow drifts over the shoulder
blades and into the aorta.
Why should she forgive me? Listen.
Our bodies ring. Hummingbird
is smaller than buffalo.
Explanation only leads to explanation.
Watch what happens.
He never walks.
The best way to catch a snake,
he is carried into the fray.
He catches snakes
when he is used to catch snakes.
They wriggle beneath him
like living branches. They curl
and whip. Everything an angry snake
pinned to the ground does, they do.
A few fang marks notch his hip.
Most of the time
He hangs in a hand
or leans in a corner.
His eyes are knot holes.
His mind is dead wood,
not a mind.
Even if he wanted to find the book
that explains the sutra
that explains his usefulness, makes
him a metaphor, he couldn’t do it.
He moves two directions from the trunk.
He has no old friends to regret.
The rest of him, the branch
he was trimmed from,
is a shade tree near a glade
where snakes sun on a flat rock
in grass near a picnic table.
Here is where he knows
he doesn’t know,
and he longs.
Portrait of a Man Drowning in Heidegger
Should I admit this?
He taught me to see a vastness
in other being. Before he gave up,
he flailed long. “The default of God
and the divinities is absence.”
His aim was always to arrive
at the immediate. Even after
the water was all I could see,
I kept tossing the rescue rope,
dragging it back, hand-over-hand.
Jack Martin lives in Colorado. Over the last twenty years, his poems have appeared in many journals, including Agni, Diagram, Gulf Coast, Georgia Review, and Ploughshares.
A Woman Sat Down at a Broken
along a board
up and down
in a fumble
for the louder
Is It Heavy, the Crown
of my regard?
Is it hard
to be loved so epically,
think you might come
down awhile to dwell
in my poor company?
To dip your hands into
the pool of my foolhardy
love, and cup, and sip?
lest the jewelry slip…
Branch Ice, in Beads,
by degrees is
by a warming
bright teeth un-
with their cases
Todd Boss’s best-selling debut poetry collection, Yellowrocket, was published in 2008 by W. W. Norton & Co—the first debut poetry book ever handled by the legendary Carol Houck Smith. Todd’s Pushcart-nominated poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. In 2008, he won Virginia Quarterly Review’s Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry and two of his poems took three top Missouri Review Audio Prizes. For the past five years, Todd has been the Director of External Affairs at The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis. He is the poet laureate of Nina’s Café in Saint Paul, and he is the founding editor of Flurry, an online journal of wintry poetry from Minnesota and the Dakotas. He lives in north suburban Saint Paul with his wife and two children. Read (and hear) Todd’s poems at toddbosspoet.