I live in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, where I manage a group of radio stations for a truly fine company, NRG Media. I've written poetry all my life, but only started sending it out in the past eight months, during which time I've had 30 poems accepted by 18 publications, the latest being the British magazine Antiphon. In my other writing life I founded the literary humor site TheBigJewel.com, and have written humor for the New Yorker and the Onion, among others, as well as for television and radio, and Sagging Meniscus Press will soon be publishing my humor collection, It's Funny Until Someone Loses an Eye (Then It's Really Funny). While my two adopted Chinese daughters are the light of my life, they have no idea what their dad does or why some people might actually think it's kind of cool. Sigh.
Five years old, I dream
of the dark and a terrible dance.
Amid gravel and driven dust
squats a town of wretched little pueblos,
no more than walls, really, open to the sky.
There the townspeople move as one, spasmodic,
soundless in their circling.
As my eyes grow accustomed to the night
I see they are joined in a crooked line
by a length of crooked
pipe welded to their heads.
I'm afraid; I run; they follow and catch me.
They fuse me to the pipe and I stop struggling.
Suddenly I'm one of them;
I can appreciate their point of view.
I see they are beautiful
and the dance meaningful.
I'm not talking.
I demand to see a lawyer,
so I leave myself in an empty
room to sweat it out
for a while. Twenty minutes of that
and I'll tell myself anything. Only
Finally I come back smiling and
offer myself a decaf coffee
with two creams, no sugar.
Yeah, a little good cop,
bad cop. That might work.
Hey, I'm just doing my job here!
This punk is tougher
than I thought. Where were you
on the night of?
And what did she do next?
Sure, try out an alibi.
We're all ears.
We haven't heard any
funny ones lately.
Then, precisely when
I'm about to crack, I burst
through the door
with a writ of habeas corpus.
During the night someone delivered
a stack of calendars,
one for each of my years left on earth.
They were novelty items,
the days numbered with zeros
already slashed out with lipstick.
The card read: "From a secret admirer."
Today it was a teacup
bearing a solitary flake of snow
from the hour of your birth.
And beside the cup a matchbook with the words:
"Make Big Money! Grow Shadows in the Privacy
of Your Own Abattoir!"
Tomorrow a fleck of dust
engraved with the story of your life
and laid like a flagstone on my lips.
"Once upon a time…the end."
I resolve to forget those words
spoken or swallowed
that only varnish the tongue. Words like:
please, forever, thank-you, goodbye
Certain phrases also must go
such as Where were you
when I called for chloroform
This must be your heart a Halloween apple
crammed with razor blades
Here cup your hands I'll pour some ashes.
I promise not to mention the mortuary
or my twin salvations
ignorance and ignominy.
I will not think of your soft feathers,
your incipient wings. I mean it,
I won't dream of your dancer's legs.
I'll stop seeing double
when there's nothing there.
I mean it.
To Michael Beasley, Who Beat My Turtles to Death
Why my mother kept letting you in the house
I'll never know.
It would always be when I was not at home.
Then she would resume her routine —
staring out the window while stirring
a cup of tea that was at least half sugar,
all that sweetness wasted on a zombie
of post-partum depression,
seven feral children in ten years.
You, of course, did not dawdle.
You got right down to business, heading straight
to the room I shared with my three brothers
and removing my pet turtles from the terrarium
where they must have thought they were safe.
The last thing they would see was
our peeling ceiling and whatever
blunt object your grubby little fist wielded.
One time it was my prized possession
a Talking G.I. Joe figurine capable of uttering
half a dozen urgent battlefield phrases.
After that his neck bent at an odd angle,
and whenever I pulled his string
all he could say was, "Medic!
Get that stretcher up here!"
But there was no medic for my turtles
or for me.
What might bring me comfort and healing now
would be to know that you and your entire
redneck peckerwood troglodyte freak family
had been struck down by that bluntest
of blunt objects, life,
and were spending eternity in the
icy ninth circle of Hell
being gnawed endlessly by an
alligator snapping turtle bigger than God.
©2017 Kurt Luchs
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