Other notable works by Dennis Doherty and Rachel Loden.
A thief builds a house
from miscellaneous stolen blueprints
the drawing room is a hangar
a crooked hallway leads
around and back into it
down a staircase through a greenhouse
to the bathroom modeled part
on a munitions factory
part on a textile mill
together they clog the drains
the upper stories revolve on an axis
he assures me throughout
the temperature remains constant
Wrestling With the Bear
No chance for an advantage.
He had weight, speed,
intelligence, the birthright,
but I thought if I came at him
used the twist and jerk,
retreated, turned my back,
I might still intrigue him.
Then we’d be ready for the road,
one-nighters in Southern towns,
sweaty women at ringside.
Barefoot in Florence
–For Anny Ballardini
Barefoot in Florence —
A dress that was pinkish
At four in the morning.
Pleasure in torrents,
Adventure to relish
Barefoot in Florence.
Tourists, take warning:
Pleasure can vanish
At four in the morning,
Borne by those currents,
The young and foolish
Are barefoot in Florence.
Libidos are churning —
It’s something to cherish
At four in the morning.
Anny – concurrence
To any such yearning
May still be a fetish
At four in the morning,
Barefoot in Florence.
Stripped of Context
Stripped of context,
a poem wanders through
dim light as a socketless
eye mounted on stork legs,
weaving like a sailor.
But it won’t last. Already
tufts of hair
push out, then genitals. Grass is
growing, in tufts
as well, through cracked sidewalks,
the bad part of a city.
The streets are narrow,
light’s angles jagged,
places to hide.
The poem finds a pair of
plaid baggy golf pants.
It’s developed a waist and arms,
a mouth that smiles at hard things,
gapes at soft things.
The sidewalk’s gone from shards
to crumpled concrete,
then to rutted dirt,
a grassy way
through fields of dried cornstalks
picked bare by wild
turkeys and migrating geese
to a small town where
the sidewalks are slabs of bluestone.
The poem settles.
It finds work in a store: knickknacks,
It marries a girl with pale eyes.
She has a past,
but they never discuss it.
If not much is as it seems, and most
of the words not mine, why trust
the showgirl in the shadows? She claims
she’s been assigned to show us around.
Look to the left, she says. You can
barely see the birdcage, but just
past it, women cower behind the granary.
One door leads out, but they don’t take it.
Maybe it’s too late. Look left, near the cloister,
the crow’s talons have deciphered
the card monitor program:
he’s uncaged. He hovers, murky,
in intervals between the women,
weaves a path through seminarians.
Look to the left, says the showgirl,
look to the left, a carnival for the old ones,
revolution for the kiddies,
mob ready for lynching,
the blonde girl with a talent for homicide.
Over right, Gertrude will sell you a beer.
On your left, the dispenser of love.
I got some of these
books for the blind
it seems in every damn
one of them
at some point the guy
says this would be
a good time for a shot
of Wild Turkey
I turn off the tape
go pour a shot
he told the doctor
I just want
to start feeling good
that won’t happen
the doctor said so you
might as well
do whatever you
like smoke cigars
drink as much damn whiskey
as you want
like the private eyes
in the books on
tape they cheat death too like
their odds are better
One night a woman sleeps
with a stranger
they’ve made love
and she’s watched his head
slide from his neck’s locked hinge
his mouth go limp
disconnect from hers
entered his privacy
on one elbow
she’s watched his
chest go in and out
memorized a face he
won’t even show
then curled into him
his arm across her breast
when they wake up
they make love again
but that’s almost beside
the point which is
the next night
wakeful next to him
her husband’s the stranger
Tad Richards is Artistic Director of Opus 40 in Saugerties, NY. He has written, produced and directed an audio drama, Nick and Jake, starring Alan Arkin, Tom Conti,and Ali McGraw. Recent poems have appeared in Iowa Review, Home Planet News, and Salt River Review.
Design at Mahmoudiya
They picked out a girl at the checkpoint
And planned it. Or they planned at the checkpoint
a girl. Because she was pretty, a flirt.
A seething beetle with palm wine eyes.
Enemy–angry, a tranny fluid toast:
To intimacy of imagination!
They made a date, gunned Mama, Papa, Hadeel
(during, in the next room), raped for real,
Then effaced her brain of these final affects
(look, listen, feel me bitch!), burnt the body they came in.
They changed their clothes. They planned this.
My sunny back porch honeysuckle hugs
Tight in downward spiral train the stair
Where bee and hummingsprite exploit
Exploding blunts of pink buds burst
To yellow, proffered salute of hairy
Stamens. Daddy longlegs prowls grass blades
For prey. They blur. Wasps at work suck sugar
Laths along the wall, a who’s home tick.
Hello black haired girl who likes to talk,
Glint-fired skin an echo from Eden, gaze
An answer: original light ever licks,
Voice the fancy dance of female intelligence.
I think this and my cock snakes, insists –
The warp of her brows, the weft of her lips.
At the crossroads of assault and proceed,
With the sweat dirty gun grease of law machines,
Amid thrill and lull, faithless young gods
Inured to guts swill black smoke, uniformed,
Flag-fetishistic do-good recruits who
Embrace for sanity’s (checkpoint!) sake (checkpoint!)
The creed of pluck for country and pluck for self
And die in the smithy of old gods’ desires…
They planned it. This, the goods your works produce.
Edge Crush Test (40 Pounds)
So now we know, refugee box upon
the back porch heap awaiting the sweep
and order of spring’s disintegration.
Only forty pounds? Can my brawn bring so
much to bear, container? I’ll no doubt punch
in your sides, flatten you, razor your spine.
It is well that you’re crush tested, as am
I, but why the label? Advertisement?
Satisfy overseers, regulators?
Your filaments can hold under so much
pressure solely upon the tested edge.
Get sodden and see what happens.
A warning? I don’t fear your fate,
who know of spring and heaps, and porches too,
where tests have been twisted into verses
by the view of wooded hillside alive
with the life that was eating it: peckers
at the poplar boles, squirrels co-opting
forest’s germs, deer at plume and mole at root.
One contemplated crushes there, and weight.
This is no confessional. I’ve given
And got, and seen other scenes on larger
scale, and not: a mountain slowly smote by
snowstorm’s languid, fury-concealed hour hand.
Sapsucker draws the last honeysuckle,
the crush that slakes the host, smashed and riven.
Imposition of the Difficult
You clear a crest and stumble
upon a slope of recognition:
this mountain, till now unremembered,
a vague delight, notes from a bird
obscured. These firs and outcrops
remain vessels, trembling chambers,
faintly vibrant with joyful past
and the after hum of lost life
in a place that waits and happens.
That wind your hymn? What comes to pass?
What comes again? The chase and loves
of others blots your eyes and ears.
The movement of these critters
is unscripted; each plot in view
uncharted. Some goodness filled you
in these hills, and not this scold of crows.
Nothing can be what was. The climb
takes odd and numbing turns to where.
Echoes can never touch their source.
A stag sidles to your scent and speaks
unafraid, an elder, a foreign father.
Being only half deer, you only half
understand: something about death,
something about fear. Half brother
to the soil who loves the soul but
covets the pelt, what do you say?
Comfort, fathers of nostalgic rue?
I’m charged to deliver the new, but
change has shifted the shape of me;
pain has twisted the make of me
from all I thought I knew. Nomadic
mappers of the land, I’m lost.
Am I the message, messenger,
or the one who heeds what calls?
On the news, miracles of wayward birth:
fertilized girls sweat litters of tots;
post-menopause moms hug drug borne firsts
while trash cans and dumpsters receive the rot
of accidental entry to glimpsed light;
perhaps best, a flash, a whiff, then the clout.
Our early son, birthed full of pain and fight,
was planned and loved, was named and known without
our knowing that the doctor trusted Jesus
the myth (to me); to him, nature’s sacred
surgeon, organist of mad wills. He was
loathe to treat the staph, the cramp. She ached, bled.
“Awful mess,” nurse chimed with excited eye.
Born dead, I thought; found out they’d let him die.
Dennis Doherty is Director of the Creative Writing Program and Chair of the Poetry Board at SUNY New Paltz where he teaches creative writing, literature, and outraged love. He is author of three poetry collections, The Bad Man (Ye Olde Font Shoppe), Fugitive (Codhill Press) and the forthcoming Crush Test (Codhill Press). His essays, poems, and stories appear throughout the literary press.
If I have to be a playmate
In my time on earth
I want to be the girl
Of drifting leaves, cold cheeks
And passionate regrets.
I think Hef loves October best
Because although he cannot
Say so, he is this close
To death. December
In its stealth has hung
Long spikes of ice
Around his sagging ears, his
Sex. So in October
I’ll be the centerfold of gay
Pretense, the girl who says
We’re at our blondest
And most perilously beautiful
Right before we check out
Of the manse.
Soon all Hef’s dreaming
Will be ash, his favorite pipe
And smoking jacket,
Last vial of Viagra
Safely under glass
At the Smithsonian.
When my shelf life here
Is done and all the damp
Boys stealing glimpses
At the newsstands
Are old men, I want them
To remember how many
Are gone, how many rooms
Stand empty, shutters
Drawn, the last girls slipped
Away in bright October.
PROPS TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Are you happy to be over, twentieth century?
Yes, you had an apronful of monsters, but
I miss you anyway, I miss my broken century
More than I miss my ex, say,
And I even miss him occasionally
Since we tangoed through the crazy jonesing
Throes of sweetest, darkest you.
Twentieth century! We had such vainglorious
Hopes for you. Smithereens, of course—
But it feels strange taking up
With other, paler centuries, like this nymphet
Who imagines that her exquisite
Laser-guided marketing campaigns
Would be enough to break me down or
Worse, make me forget. I don’t. Can’t. Even
Your pyramids of empty skulls are with me yet
And with that other who remembers you
As endless tea-soaked madeleine or dusty
Matzoh of revenge, last dish of cottage cheese
And ketchup at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
No tincture of seahorse.
No cloudberry poultice.
Don’t look there
when pixels spill
over the drawers, blow
down the stairs.
Bare, as they say. No
one to sweep
into Saturday. No
broom. No sorceress.
Shall I write a poem about you
And your epic struggle against stupidity?
Feh. But if the brain is a city
I too have rooms in the swampy part, surrounded by crocodiles.
The monarch butterflies sail down from the Canadian Rockies
To overwinter in Pacific Grove, pair off and fly away;
They bruise me. I get crankier.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the Saugatuck
Please text me beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Palookaville.
Rachel Loden is the author of Dick of the Dead, a finalist for the California Book Award, and Hotel Imperium, selected as one of the ten best poetry books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle. Her work has appeared twice in the Best American Poetry series and she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, an &NOW award, a California Arts Council fellowship, and a grant from the Fund for Poetry.