Luc Bat for Sergio Leone
Three pairs of restless eyes
read faces, analyze grim odds,
a tic or subtle nod,
cracks within fixed facades, the fear
concealed in knitted sneers.
Thumbs tucked in bandoliers drop back,
touch hammers’ tongues, enact
a lightning sequence, track pistols’
arcs, feather-triggers’ pulls,
trivial options, bullets loosed,
then mark the box of useless death.
Even played close to chest,
probabilistic bests just keys.
Nothing can guarantee
a gunman lives to see new skies.
First published in Think: A Journal of Poetry, Fiction, and Essays, Vol. 10
Hollow echoes, furious dissonance in a windowless world; the Unit, where I squandered hours, days, years, dragging from one pained face to another, squirming in the wake of anxious cries, hiss of ventilators, raspy suction pumps, shoes squeaking on linoleum floors, scrambled phone-talk, staccato whistles of alarms. Worm tunes rattle my brain until somehow, Mr. Breitenmeyer emerges from the tangle of cumbrous wires, burbling tubes. I bend towards his ramshackle figure, put stethoscope to chest, my ears tuned for rubs, snaps, gallops, blowing murmurs, crescendo, decrescendo, weighted sum of periodic functions. He smiles, begs pardon for his insurgent body, growling abdomen, lungs mumbling decay. He will die soon and he knows it. But the rhythm of his pulse still sings; seasons, tides in every round of systole, diastole, like lapping waves, a low plainsong in clear translational symmetry. Alongside his even breathing, all pointless noises disappear. The steady pulse, the tide proceeding, not resignation, serenity.
First published in Ponder Review, Vol. 3 Issue 2
One cupcake bite, I’m back in first grade:
chalkboard dust, spelling apple and you,
counting by tens, selling lemonade,
three take-away one, the struggle to tie shoes.
Mid-east wars have been going solid since,
a seventeen-year count of money and lives.
I should know but can’t remember much
more than black hair, his laugh, piggy-back rides.
Statisticians seem to agree near six trillion
dollars, but casualties are another story,
from one hundred thousand to a million
depending on who’s taking inventory.
And every one who died must have left someone
lost, blank, wondering about the subtraction.
First published in Ocotillo Review Vol. 4