Poetry, November 2009

In the Cold American Winter

From across the plains and cities, the dim air
fogs and moans against the curtained pane,
speaks in tongues, swarming reality's grammar,
the last light at the door looking bony, drawn.
Safe inside, a man, alone, immured
by notions, waits for evening gain.
He ghosts his way through blazing rooms or
in the kitchen stops at last to hear fluorescent drone
above the unset table like a spell from summer
of insect hum in light and warmth again.
He listens to the furnace murmur,
cuts bread, pours wine,
takes them to the family room and TV, redeemer,
its rainbow covenant: that the known
will be the same, will fix the familiar --
his voice, his white white skin,
the chairs and lamps and household melodies -- as in amber.
He stretches out before his indoor shrine,
attention offered up as prayer and myrrh.
He's prepared for the arena scene
of a particularly saving demeanor
and watches the grand illusion
of other lives skim and whir,
whirl and cry and wane
before him. A distant shimmer
of deepening mysteries is spun
between commercials: life ripping seams, a blur
out there of darkening faces and tongues obscene
as cancer, fingers raised in nightmare
and the crack of breathing twisting every spine.
A sudden gust sets up a window tremor
and rattling at the door like someone wanting in.
He stirs like a troubled dreamer
a moment. That's all. Unseen
a fireplace log slips and cracks to ember,
blue at first like an uncut vein,
then blood red, then teeming flames are
all the rage again.

--Franchot Ballinger From BlueCollar Review Franchot Ballinger is the author ofLiving Sideways: Tricksters in American Indian Oral Traditions.

On the Limits of Guilt

Fill the teapot
with water.

Pull the spatula
from its drawer.

Light the range.

The kitchen holds only
these private sounds:
boiling water
poured into the mug,
butter sizzling
on the warming pan.

There are cries,
there are explosions
this kitchen could not hold.

On the counter, bread
springs from the toaster.

--Amy Groshek's poetry has been featured in magazines like Contrary Magazine, Radical Society and the anthology Seeds of Fire: Contemporary Poetry from the Other USA.



allover will remember
their legs their arms,
the amputated spaces
will be Nothing branded
into their little souls,
never to forget, Israel,
you shattered their vessels
with your gunfire, shit on
the word, said fuck you
to the fetus in the womb.

You not they pissed on
your own wholly unholy
tetragramaton, its letters
a fraud and a fake.
I wish I could feed you
hand grenades in your mug,
I want to stuff dead children
into your eyes, lovers of learning

May selah be broken
in your mouth, may amen
never find chapter and verse,
may your food turn into
the gangrenous limbs of the
children you've felled,
those little trees of sparks.
You've killed David over
and over, you star of death.

O aliyah, how low!

O victory of defeat!

O stones growing in
the clenches of fists

against you,
you rattler of bones!

---Jack Hirschman