Other notable works by Jon Tribble and Angie Macri.
Reoccurring Dream (Including The Soundtrack)
It starts the way it ends-
someone yells Hallelujah
and the hooligans put away their
brass knuckles and firearms then
sing lullabies to coax the wings out.
Pin the tail on the donkey is replaced
with games of ball and jacks.
The bungo juice is passed around one
final time and then the soberest one
in the bunch stumbles up to read out
aloud the note scotch-taped to the pearly
gates, you know, the one that says;
Picking-up some Chinese takeaway,
Be Back In A Jiffy!
A Cure For The Blues
And I knew the prefect remedies:
-Any ingredient found in the falsetto of Buddhism.
-Night air, in a doctor’s prescription for the tropics.
-Papery thin snores of a sleeping park bench.
-Red rash, vacationing in certain harsh detergents.
-All bits of Bach in the soup bowl of ear candy.
-Every skillet with drawers of smelling salt.
-Lemon or garlic wrapped in uncharted archipelagos.
-Footprints, when they can be peeled like a banana.
-Identical mannequins in the auction of spare parts.
-And purgatory, especially when wearing a paisley scarf.
Words, Sawing Themselves In Half…
but mostly, they communicate using mating calls.
Some say they taste like sweet nectar juice while
others argue they smell like fish and resemble
an all-inclusive weekend in a bird’s nest.
In my opinion, words are allergic to wool and never
eat between meals. Few of them have ever met a
prophet or had their homes foreclosed. They only
drink to be sociable but are sensual and fleshy inside.
They like to travel back to the province where they
grew up using secondary country roads and enjoy an
occasional picnic. Words are “team players” whose
only weakness are sins that feel good.
Oh, and one more thing. They are afraid of heights.
More Alzheimer’s You’ll Never Remember
Pregnant men taste like mayonnaise on wheat bread.
A good restaurant offers a wide range of free-range beef.
Broken glass always be mixed into the coyote calls.
Elvis often appears in the minty-fresh tooth paste.
Peek through the blinds of a hummingbird feeder.
Ceramic urinals breach the tennis racket’s identity theft.
A thimbleful of Great Coral Reef lips.
A pledge of allegiance to liposuction everyone can recite.
Senility, swallowing both the sword and the sword swallower.
Serendipity In The Meteorites…
or just peacock feathers in my iris oyster of toothy stars
to nibble, motoring west towards the harmonica
in the photo copier with crow’s feet that are
nocturnal or howling at the big-eyed
salt-lick of a whale next to me,
while whistling a dashboard
of hello miles half-asleep
we drive on through
the night then
to watch seagulls
swarm the misty one-legged
island’s limp, memorizing our vacation
so its still an eight-cylinder stick shift when
we reach our next rest stop, six hours from now.
After almost a decade of working as a freelance photographer in Europe, Maurice Oliver returned to America in 1990. Then, in 1995, he made a life-long dream reality by traveling around the world for eight months. But instead of taking pictures, he recorded the experience in a journal which eventually became poems. And so began his desire to be a poet. His poetry has appeared in numerous national and international publications and literary websites including Potomac Journal, Pebble Lake Review, Frigg Magazine, Dandelion Magazine (Canada), Stride Magazine (UK), Cha Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong), Kritya (India), Blueprint Review (Germany) and Arabesques Review (Algeria). His forth chapbook was One Remedy Is Travel (Origami Condom, 2007). He edits the literary ezine Eye Socket Journal at: http://eyesocketjournal.blogspot.com . He lives in Portland, OR, where he works as a private tutor.
The Scarab’s Tracks
for my niece Katherine
In Maadi, sunrise shifts heat
across ragged palms, bending
their rigid poses like divers
arching back in perfect
falling motion. Behind the jigsaw
four-foot stone wall, Katherine
spills cool water over impatient
poppies, cleansing dusty petals
bright as sirens, bright as her
fine hair seared white-gold molten
by morning’s arrival. She coaxes
fat red wasps down about her,
untwirling a sweet bun like
an African river wrinkling its way
past crocodiles and staunch
secretary birds, twisting and
lapping into dark alluvial fans
unfolding rich deltas, feathers,
graveyard bones of banyan and
lost ivory. Katherine pinches
back anthills at her sandaled
feet, traces a beetle’s tracks
with her big toes furrowing
the sand right up to the shiny
carapace glistening over its
ball of earth. Inside, her mother
soaks tomatoes in a warm sudsy
sink. She’ll peel them later
and she and Katherine will turn
the sweet pulp on their tongues,
taste late summer in the flesh
and seeds of the luxuriant fruit.
What I can’t remember is the color
of her blouse, though I know the way
the sun lit her blond hair as he
brushed it free with his fingers,
the blue barrettes she always wore
joining the growing pile of their
clothes. I was eleven, always
following her to the lake where she
worked summers as a lifeguard, and
when I saw them go into the woods
I trailed behind, stalking them like
an Iroquois brave from the Leather-
stocking Tales, avoiding the dry twigs
better than Natty Bumppo ever did.
They stopped within a grove of pine,
loblolly and broadleaf branches green
clouds against the blue sky, and I
watched as he pulled her to him,
lowered her to the brown blanket
of needles. There was little cover
so I stretched belly-down in a ditch
that would have been a creek in spring
or autumn, turned the flat shale rocks
around me to find centipedes, trails
of silver and white lines left by grubs
and earthworms, a stain of calligraphy
that I could no more decipher than
I could understand why she came here.
When I looked up, he was on top of her
and they rocked together so slowly
I had to watch her knees carefully
to catch them slide farther out, her
hands slip lower and lower on his back
to pull him closer in. I was glad
I couldn’t see her face. Their bodies
marked by shadows and tan lines, new
white skin unnatural, uncovered despite
the pine branches reaching down to them,
but I kept watching, still, unable
to make anything out of the echoes of
their voices in the trees, unable to
imagine myself ever in his place.
Here the muddy river wraps its current
about this shoal, makeshift island planted
with dogwood, plum, and apple blossom.
Here my sister and her son gather petals,
early summer snow of flowers carpeting
red clay and concrete anchoring this place.
Here barges plow the flat dark water,
their wakes tumbling the reflected bridges,
city of empty cotton brokers and bail bonds.
Here a glass pyramid mirrors back the scowl
trembling across my nephew’s face as his
garlands spill from his arms and scatter.
Here gulls from down- and upriver spin wild
above shiny gar rolling through schools
of shad, bloated buffalo and catfish surfacing.
Here my sister cradles her son to her,
reclining on this grassy knoll lifted beyond
courts and chances, promises and denials.
Here the past is last night’s dog races, last
year’s tornadoes, the Mississippi full of chains,
bones, broken rudders and paddlewheels.
Here before flight she holds her son against
a future neither sees beyond the morning,
afternoon, evening, night of uncertainty.
Here the wind lifts the petals over the city
and the boy sleeps, dreams only of his hands,
his mother, and flowers of the South.
Fire’s Second God
Not the mantis nor the mason wasp
brought smolder to the hearth’s corners.
No Titan suffered the vulture’s beak
for the crumbling ash silting the grate
beneath the oven’s closeted breath.
No jaguar led a hungry boy to soot.
No trickster beat against the evening
shadows with his dead grandmother’s
jawbone to slow the passing of dusk
and chill. No thief steals what flame
has left behind. But the pines know
the riddle of seared bark and cone.
The water and sand and earth reveal
the lie of spark and flicker–uncertain
consecrator of transient rituals burning
entrails or promises, the virgin cast
into the undiscerning heat. The clay
baked and set for the bread and bone
of hut and tomb, of ziggurat and hovel
alike. Steam of the blacksmith slaking
the forge’s complaint upon the surface
of a blade. Steel mills spilling girders
like new arrows for a city’s quiver,
towers waiting for the sky. Wax wings
melt in the warmest winds, the wheels
of day’s chariot leave behind desert
if their tracks stray too close to earth–
to build there must be something after,
the fire must go out. The hand needs
a surface cool enough to touch and stay.
On summer days there was no escape
from the heat and horseflies growing
out of the rich red clay. Twilight,
Grandfather took the green water hose
to the middle of his truck garden.
You have to wait. Water boils on eggplants’
leaves, puckers tomatoes like yellow raisins.
If he caught me pulling young carrots,
he arced a rainbow of water over me,
leaving behind a trail in the dry rows
like chicken tracks after a morning shower.
A ragged mockingbird dangled
from a live oak’s branch, strung there
with a foot of barbed wire just out of dogs’
and grandchildren’s reach. Best scarecrow
in the world, Grandfather would laugh,
and he planted sweet corn beneath the dead bird.
Rabbits crept from the cotton dawn and dusk
so he kept a shotgun, box of 12-gauge shells,
handy, but I never saw him use it.
Some evenings we sat on the back steps
shelling black-eyed peas. If he saw a rabbit,
he yelled and clapped, stomped his foot
against the wooden steps, might even
get up and throw a rock, but when
we finished he had me carry the paper bag
full of pods to spread at the cotton’s edge.
Other nights, when summer storms
scared lightning from the heat-heavy sky,
we sat in the parlor–his whiskey out of sight,
the dogs wrestling underneath the house,
yips and growls slipping up through
the pine floorboards. I curled against
his blue overstuffed chair as he quietly
spit into a coffee tin he kept nearby.
Once, we watched gila monsters crawl across
his little black-and-white portable.
It was a National Geographic Special
and the storm echoed in white flashes of static
with each strobe of lightning. He was washing
butterbeans in a big red bowl of cold water,
and every few minutes he would cough hard
and spit, catch me peeking up at him, and smile.
One spring, two starlings nested
in the chimney of the bedroom
all of his eleven children had been born.
Grandfather blocked the flue tightly
with a bundle of rags, then went and got
a ladder out, climbed up on the roof
and dropped a smoke bomb down.
When the starlings didn’t appear,
he covered the top of the chimney
with plywood, and I ran, couldn’t stand
the cries of the birds–even through brick–
had to outrun his echoing laughter.
Beneath the mockingbird’s shadow,
the garden was freshly furrowed, manure
dark in new trenches. The cotton fields
were still only rows of red clay,
and in the distance I saw dogs chasing crows
off the road. I heard Grandfather calling me,
and I turned back toward the house
to help clear the rooms of smoke.
Jon Tribble’s poems have appeared in the anthologies And Know This Place: Poetry of Indiana, Surreal South, and Two Weeks, and in Concelebratory Shoehorn Review, Prime Mincer, Caper Literary Journal, and Prime Number Magazine. He teaches at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he is the managing editor of Crab Orchard Review and the series editor of the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry published by SIU Press.
Straight up moon says four a.m.
There’ll be no frost from southern clouds.
Ribs circle lungs of light, breathing
tomorrow’s rain. Molars are erupting,
so last night walked fast with son
in arms, pink angry fingers, and no song.
Warmth rises from the backs of cows,
throats silent and cud still in hoarse light.
Skunk sulfur crosses the egg and dart
horizon. Ashes from past fires weigh
the forest under decades of springs.
We are before the phrase good morning,
pitchers in hand, hunters, lovers sleeping.
The hound whimpers. Pupils unlaced, I feel
with socked feet: concrete, gravel, needles,
blades, sky smeared with blueberry pulp
and skin. I reach beyond roads’ memories
of wheels spinning the rock that pops hubcaps
and sticks in treads before letting go.
In heavy earthmoving,
the hawk with its stripes
squeezes its prey. Often
it breaks its own chest, the furcula
the wishbone fractured
flying down through thickets
to hunt in morning’s side.
The moon is close to Mars,
between its lower crosses,
protected as cloves, as nails
of trees. Light cleaves bone
as it goes around, Mars
directly opposite the sun
and close to the white earth.
In the arms of clematis,
in cider and sweet tides,
light is protected. Eve
into dawn, again and again,
it moves up alongside, inside
the violet inner circle
that translates into amber.
The silhouettes of trees
stand, not cold or old
but as that which strengthens
the world for flight.
Rose, white with amethyst, hear: the sand
sings with his footsteps. Feathers leaf
under sweet hips. Manganese pink stars
with milk from rutile needles, turbid and coarse.
Rosemary, let me own this garden. Let me
remember fingers and chest and a rose window
at the west end of the nave. Silver springs flow
where manatee, elephants, mastodons lie. It rains.
In the swell box, pipes open and close by his pedal.
The owl nests and lays, latches and gathers her shadow.
Under her petaled-stone sides stands his bouquet.
Stigma, style, sepal, bract grow from the rest.