Three Poems

August Kleinzahler

Citronella and Yellow Wasps

Before the heat and after
The little pink beeper shop and the flamingo
In the logo
Same colour as the icing on the cookies inside
And the votive candles that heal bad sprains
Also, the billboards overhead
Through the dusty branches
Big square decals mounted against sky
A bit of nose here, some lettering
Jesus or barbecue
Exit 205
Cobalt blue background cut out of sky
‘Clouds with Hanging Panels’
When the light is right at that place it finds
For 20 minutes or so
Only that
So many fugitive spaces
You give us 22 minutes and we’ll give you the world.
I could even tell you which film to use
If I had a moment
Soundtrack by ...
Theremin, slide guitar and aeoliphone
Messiaen and Ry Cooder
The truth pours north
I meant trucks
Maquiladora sisal tin
Box girders and columns
Concrete cantilevers overhead flowing
All the way to Minneapolis
Heroin and mangoes
Everything in the grass beginning to wake
And bite
It’s so dry
A fine mist of particulates
Settling in
Feed dust nickel sulphates
Sound travels funny in the heat
Blaise, Blaise
Dare I ever forget you
Tequila and sandals
Methamphetamine
Humping it all the way from Brownsville
Hook’em, Horns
Nascar              Talk radio
Crank it, Hurley, crank it
All the way through Mosquitoville
The whole long stretch to Mesa Junction
Wild light
A rattle by the storm drain
Red Rooster
Speed kills
No lie the way these people paint
Things so bright

Back

How familiar it all slowly becomes:
a photograph
still murky in its chemical bath;
a tune or aroma
not quite placed but close in the mind,
and then, yes, ah, that, my my ...

The pastels and hills, the addled geometry –
desolation
perched on the gut like a seagull on a piling.
An outpost, by the sea,
so very far from anything and its back turned.
In defiance? Hardly,
nothing so emphatic in this cool, silvered air.
Bewilderment, perhaps.
A studied casualness. Yes. That.

And if a woman,
beautiful, surely, at the very least,
distant, vain. But foolishly so,
endearingly.
Spaghetti straps and the rest.
And vague.
Ceremonially so. Stupid maybe.
Blinkered, of course.
But handsomely turned out and well-practised
in so very many of the comforts
that slipping away from her atmosphere
involves real pain.

One finds one’s way,
slowly;
as there is no place to really hurry, is there?
Always in the small things:
a box of staples in the sideboard’s drawer,
or the garlic press,
found at last behind the vinegars and pastes.
Who would have left it there?
So many people have passed through in my absence.

I have been away a long time,
forgotten just how quiet it can seem.
No Penelope, no good blind Argos chivvied by fleas.
No suitors to slay.
How terribly long it takes:
the books and closets and outside plants
finding their ways back into one’s head,
where and in what order.
Away for so long I’m other than I was,
having again to learn simply how to be here,
as if having another go at the piano
after how many years.

Pulp ’n’ Gumbo Sonnet

NOWHERE PRUNE TOWN MORPHS INTO HIGH-TECH EDEN
FAT RAPIST RE-JAILED
BURGLARS TAKE GUILLOTINE AND HITLER’S PIANO
DISNEY HIRES KISSINGER
SHARK TAKES GROOM AS WIFE ESCAPES
PRISON SEX VIDEO STARS DEAD SICKO
RUNAWAY OSTRICH SPREADS PANIC IN LAS VEGAS
SGT BILKO MISTAKEN FOR DALAI LAMA
SEAGULL CAUSES JOCKEY’S DEATH
TSUNAMI’S CORPSE LAGOON
SQUARCIALUPI STANDS UP FOR DWARFS
EATING ROOS WILL SAVE THEM
NO REGGAE IN TAIPAN
I WARNED THEM IT WAS A MISTAKE TO INVITE OLIVER