Robert Klein Engler-


They are together on the campus grass.
Sophomores, maybe, on the grass not far
from Old Main, not far from Jefferson Hill,
not far from the overhanging chestnut
tree that has yet to cast an inky shadow
and darken the fresh, spring grass.

She reaches over to place her arm across
his chest, then pecks a kiss. Quickly. Look
up! Did any one see us kiss on the grass
by the wide chestnut tree, not far from
Old Main? Did anyone see the first kiss
of spring on the green, green grass?

I did, and remember the tide of green
that rushed in me, overflowing the dam
of books, to flood all my good intentions.
What rose in me rises in them, so I won’t
tell them about who sleeps below the grass
or of the church bell that tolls the hours.

I won’t tell them how a kiss tastes like
earth and grass. Why ruin the surprise.
I won’t tell them how they say all flesh
is grass or how to turn the grass to words.
Let them find it out alone by the dogwood
flowering white and the yellow tulip bed.



There’s always something left undone.
There’s always the dark heartache that
never sees the sun. There’s always the wish
that flies away and the hope for just one
more day. Always, always, the deep well
of the heart. Always, the magnolias and
the corrugated shack, always the trusting
cattle, heads bowed down. Always, the
confetti of swallows against the evening sky,
and the clack of wheels that say, “good-bye.”
Always the urge to tell, always, the rusted plow,
and a darkened window with a half-torn shade,
always the wanderer from home and noontime
bells, the broken promise and the poem.

Always the silence of the grave, always
the bed, the sigh, the wave. Always a golden
bauble just out of reach, always the cypress
hung with moss, the white heron on its glide,
always the cross and the doubt like an itch,
always the holding on and the reluctant
letting go, always the swallowed, “No.”
Always grass in summer and in winter gone,
and something in the soul like a splinter,
always the drought and the flood, always
birth and blood. Always fire and water, sons
and daughters, always hail, always nails.
Always the sky above like hands that bless,
always the prayer for grace to say, “Yes.”



There’s a pair of crutches on the overhang,
above the doors leading to the Jackson
Station. You can’t see them from the street,
but you can from the fifth floor of the King
Edward Hotel. OK. What’s the story, here?
A miracle: “Upon arriving at Jackson, suddenly,
I could walk again.” Or just common cruelty?
“Dem mothafuckers took my crutches and
threw dem up dare. Lord, what I gonna do?”
Then, there are those who think it’s funny.
Or maybe just the same old daily trouble.
No matter, “Trouble gonna cost ya money.”



The fuckin’ L runs late, so I am late.
A homeless guy then greets me at the stairs,
his hand held out. I never take the bait.
Some emo brats go through the doors in pairs.

Last night the garbage laid in frozen piles,
the union called a strike. It’s been a week
since they rolled out a truck. The turnstile’s
broke. This transit thing’s almost antique.

My girlfriend says there’s drugs at school.
The sales tax is now past 10 percent.
My friend got fired. She told a joke. The fool.
Milk’s high. Why I can hardly pay the rent.

Still, I can’t decide: Adopt a Chinese kid,
or get a compost bin without a lid.


Robert Klein Engler lives in Des Plaines, Illinois and sometimes New Orleans. Many of Robert’s poems, stories and photographs are set in the Crescent City. His long poem, The Accomplishment of Metaphor and the Necessity of Suffering, set partially in New Orleans, is published by Headwaters Press, Medusa, New York, 2004. He has received an Illinois Arts Council award for his “Three Poems for Kabbalah.” If you google his name, then you may find his work on the Internet. Link with him at Facebook.com to see examples of his recent paintings and photographs. Some of his books are available at Lulu.com.