Short Stories


Volume 8: Seven Poems

By John Powers

A TWO LINE POEM
For the Poet Kevin Carollo

I said
We must learn to live
Inside our history.
You said

History
Is a two-line poem.

I said
History is a bird,
It flies from us.
You said

We must learn to live
Inside a bird.

I said
Then we must learn to fly.
—Home again to ourselves
You said.

 

THE STRUGGLE

We used to lay in bed
Together love was easy
Windows winged open
The world came to us
While Boston’s light
Faded in the plane’s
Small window I believed
In beyond I thought
I saw the tight fist
Of my past slip away
In the red intermittent
Flash and tumble off the
Wing back to America
Over my left shoulder.

The sea’s salty spray
Came up over the rails
Settled upon our faces
Small kisses everywhere
The corners of your mouth
Turned up your eyes smiled
The Belfast ferry’s wake –
A fomenting white trail –
Slowly disappearing again
We were constantly reborn

And out on the coast of Clare
Ireland furled her dress
Flicked her long wild hair
And shifted her shape
So slowly no one noticed
The seduction so quiet
The pleasure so available
We followed her lead

Spent our pounds on pints
Staggered through the night
Stopping only occasionally
To piss
Upon the corpse of mythology

 

THEY CAN BE MANY COLORS, EVEN IN A SINGLE CLUTCH

I like old houses. I like restoring spaces that have fallen into disrepair. When I was a boy my father hoisted me above his head, settling me on his wide shoulders in a pose of paternity. I saved a snippet, a snapshot of sorts. My rag draped hand holds a fallen egg, speckled green and blue—the color of his eyes looking up in the rain—my small veiled hand reaches out returning the orphaned egg, intact, to a haphazard, most likely abandoned nest.

A few falls later, we found each other in the schoolyard, each having been pushed permanently out of our own nest. She was the picture of youth and beauty. Fourteen years old. Overdeveloped and overexposed.

Today, his eyes hideaway in a one-room hovel, a few square feet of nineteenth-century opulence, sectioned off by austerity, separated into single-rooms of grey squalor. But old Victorians were built with a practicality curtained in vanity. They’re like some women, born with looks and money, but who only become beautiful with age and sorrow. Still, I look at her now, and wonder, had she so beautiful a smile in our early days, before the nesting and the crows-feet?

 

TIRED HURRIED TRIAD

i. Stickin’ to the Schedule
or, Broken-Hearted-Clock-Bound Blues

The hand of the clock
Takes hold of your sleeve
Pulling you from the room
Ripping you from me

ii. Day Dream Blues

Eyes drawn
To neutral tones
Miss notes
Within the songs

iii. Rent
or, Talkin’ Macduff’s Blues: Whistlin’ Past the Graveyard-In a Minor Key

It seems
The things
You bring
To my dreams
Brake me apart
Leave me

 

And I Think Finches
Or, Birds and Kings

A cerulean blue sky blanket

Bundles the cool air. I lie,
God-like, in my hammock.

 

Birds visit my yard:

Sparrows, and I think finches

Though it is the blue jays

I like most, badgering birds,

Making mischief—Like David.

So beautiful. So flawed.

 

So favored.

 

DRUNKEN SAILOR

I often felt lonesome, abandoned even. Most nights my girlfriend was asleep before I left work and still asleep when I awoke in the aching hours of morning. Her beauty was preserved by the act most resembling death. All I wanted was a blessing, was more life. At the bar, I drank like a sailor searching for a lighthouse.

I’ve learned many songs. Found a few good friends, not as many as the moment fiends to offer in reverie, still, I remember a kiss so sincere, so very real—So goddamned good that even now, your teeth are close down on my bottom lip. Grab. Twist. Pull. Iron. Rust. Even now, the warmth of your life blows on the corner of my mouth, commanding my hands to go there.

Lighthouses. Wonderfully distant lighthouses.

 

DECAF

These days that strong dark Joe
gives me the shakes, makes me worry
more than normal.

I’ve had to step it down.
My wife ridicules me.
Why even bother, she asks.

There are days I ask myself the same.

Before I found her, coffee was to me
a drink for other, under-energized
people in need of a boost.

But like the pull of her dark hair
her dark eyes
her darkness

I was pulled in by her dark drink.

 

One morning, over breakfast and coffee
she told me that the Turks
called coffee the drink of revolution.

Her dark hair
her dark eyes
her darkness

drove me mad. I wanted to die for a cause.
She was my cause.  She was my revolution.

 

That morning she took me in hand.
Took me into her mouth.
Her dark eyes blackened.
Her hands clutched and pulled.
Grabbed. And groped.
Took complete control.

Then she turned, swept half-empty plates of bacon
scrambled eggs and toast off the table. Bagels rolled.
The butter boat shipwrecked. She swiped
steaming half-full mugs to the floor.
The violent crash of kitchen ware left coffee
bleeding out upon the faux Italian ceramic tile.

I stood in shock

 

‘til she grabbed my face
sucked my tongue and bit my lip.
Pushing away

she pulled her shirt over her head
laid back on the kitchen table
ran her hands inside her thighs
and spread her legs open wide.

Tossing her head back she moaned,
You gonna stand there, waiting for the revolution,
or you wanna bring that thing over here

and revolt?

In those days, we drank like revolutionaries.

We ate like aristocrats,

and loved like gypsies –

In so far, at least, as our romanticized
impression of gypsies, and gypsy loving, allowed.

These days, I await the revolution.
I want so badly to revolt
but whenever I begin she asks,
why even bother?
Decaf, she says, is not the drink of revolution.