Richard P J Lambert CC
FURTHER AND FURTHER
Wearing his thrift shop cape,
he stalks the alleys with his cane
and the many fevers a man carries
who’s lived too long in his own company.
The single room above the convenient keeps shrinking,
the acreages within his kingdom reduced
to the size of the single window.
A letter comes through the slot in his skull
and he finds upon it his mother’s address
and on the envelope a nickel stamp.
How old is he?
He could’ve ruled many kingdoms, made her proud.
Zeppelin had pointed him out of Mordor
so he’d memorized
the roads through Middle Earth
smoked a toke down in Mexico--no,
it doesn’t go like that. Fuck.
He tries the mirror, but that’s no better.
He sees a pigeon perched on the bank steeple.
He concentrates until he knows for sure
it falls into
flight and out of
he willed it to do so.
He could live by his special powers
he tells the hash cook the next morning
waiting in line for toast and eggs and coffee.
You just have to keep everything in focus. And try hard.
Try harder, his mother had told him.
He is, still is, trying,
harder and harder,
further and further
out of sight.
ON THE WAY DOWN
I land in a small elevator with hundreds of people
pressing against me, waving unanswered letters,
unpaid bills, shouting complaints, pleading
for answers to e-mails . . .
Everyone knows my name.
Worse, I know theirs.
They absorb all but the silence.
Someone gives it a swift quick out the door.
I see it glowing in the distance on a headland
above a noisy sea.
At every stop more voices:
speech bubbles boiling over with debts and trespasses.
A coffee can filled with stones is shaken relentlessly
outside that moment childhood ended.
Mother is screaming about the toothpaste being left open,
Father is growling under the floor about the missing pliers.
Ghosts with black tears keep begging for forgiveness.
Babies tear words from the air and
fling them against thin walls of skin
under which my soul crawls
toward the solace
of wall flowers, cruel friends, brave enemies.
Abased, and bruised, I scratch my nails
into their faces as they shimmer
inside the mirror’s still horizon.
I wait for the dumb waiter to call my name,
announce the last course.
Harshman’s WOMAN IN RED ANORAK, won the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize, published by Lynx House Press. His fourteenth children’s book, FALLINGWATER [co-author Anna Smucker] was published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan in 2017. He is also the co-winner of the 2019 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. Poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, the University of Iowa, University of Georgia, and the University of Arizona. Appointed in 2012, he is the seventh poet laureate of West Virginia
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