Three Poems

August Kleinzahler

Toys

The janitor washing the blackboard
in Mrs Turnaud’s class

February night not too far
from the border with Vermont

snowless, and still a little stoned

thinks he caught a patch
of aurora borealis out the window

or maybe just a headlight off a cloud

     *

Thank you for kissing me just then
It was getting to be rather a swarm in there
with the tendrils, suckers and shoots

no purpose, no end in sight

syntax a lost dynasty

     *

That child is in terror
terror of himself

You can tell by his face
how it’s wrong in three parts

and with a helmet of busy bruised air
framing it

the parents, insensible,
walk chattering behind

He’s going to hurt himself
He’s going to hurt himself, soon

     *

Look at the coloured liquids and string beans
in a jar, pickled

the carved mahogany sideboard

so old and so dark, like Europe

     *

The gaunt timpanist
with the visiting symphony orchestra

sits by himself on a concrete bench
in the abandoned pedestrian mall

Sunday with dead oak and maple
leaves skittering past

in this lovely provincial city
renowned for its love

of the arts

     *

She’s a drunkard but still pretty
fortyish, oddly athletic

The sidewalk might as well be
the top of a sawhorse
she walks so daintily with her pint
in a small brown bag

when suddenly a terrific boom
ripples across the sky overhead,
brilliant afternoon

It’s the celebrated Blue Angels
rocketing east to west
in their Tomcat fighters

nearly on top of each other
tight diamond formation

their contrails feathering behind
come apart and vanish into sky

     *

The hobbyist in his room, alone
under the blue turret

his work of many years now done

each row of matchsticks flawlessly
joined, canted, plumb

the fading smell of epoxy

Someone Named Gutierrez: A Dream, A Western

Outside the cantina
with you in the back seat of a ruined DeSoto,
torn upholstery, vinyl mange
and the big old radio’s static frying
what could only be a Dixie Cups tune.
Things had gone terribly bad,
and Slim, who drove us the whole long way
through chaparral and dust,
was in there now, with them,
asking for the money he had no right to,
had no right to even ten years back
when the fire was, or so he says.
They nearly killed him then,
the fool, the braggart, the Suicide Kid,
just itching after a good old-timey
late afternoon cowboy send-off,
blood and gold and glinting side arms,

with us stuck back there yet, hove-to
in the back seat like two kids
waiting for Dad.
                              When you touched me,
the lightest of touches, the most unforeseen,
carelessly along the wrist,
I nearly came unglued.
I mean, I knew about Ramon,
that lovely boy – and for so long,
the two of you. I cherish that photo still,
your white tam-o’-shanter, his red TransAm.
Then I became water.
Then, from what had once been my chest,
a plant made of light effloresced.
Thus, our adventure began, our slow-motion
free-fall through the vapours and oils.
I stammered at your white flesh.
                                                  And that,
that’s when the shooting began.

Monsters

Lie down then with the monsters
Take your ease
They frightened you once
But not anymore
You awaken among them
A changeling of sorts
Attended first by Infant Esau
Then the Sirenoforms
Who jabber and squeal
Through breached sternums
Waving their dorsal flaps
Noisily sucking
I saw you spoon out the giblets
To Zoophagous Margie
Heard you coo ever so sweetly
Like an indulgent mommy
At her guttural chuckling
Then wipe clean the spittle
From her mouth and chin
I watched you there
Thriving
As if among your own
A hysteria gaining
With drink and time
So flushed with pleasure
At the fact of your presence
Your comeliness and bearing
How they primped
And what a fuss they made
Over your choker
Your jacket
Your hair
How you inflamed them
Till appetite crackled
Fat in the skillet
Clementine the Pigboy
Could not help but touch you
Your hips and arms
Your breasts
I turned away
And you said nothing
Emboldened, then Zep, Jo-Jo
And the Crocodile Girl too
Still you said nothing
And the noise
You had to have seen me
But for the din
Might have heard me
Call to you
Call out your name