Howie Good

Human Resources

The woman in HR

had hard eyes

in a doughy face.

 
I had come for advice

on what to do

about my sadness.

 
Most of what I said

she didn’t understand

and didn’t want to.

 
In lieu of actual help,

the woman in HR

placed a box of tissues

on the corner of her desk. 

Ian Copestick

At Home In Hell


Yes, I feel
comfortable
here.
This is
obviously
where I belong.

There's always
pain, but I'm used
to that.

I've known it all
of my life.

The red hot lake
isn't too bad, once
you get used to it.

And, believe me,
you actually begin
to look forward to
the pitchfork stabs.

I guess it's how you
know that the Devil
cares about you. 

Laura Stamps

 What Does It Take? 

 
“Dear Elaine,” she writes on another postcard. “I’ve been thinking, thinking. Today. About my ex-husband. You remember him. Right? The tall guy. Always in a hurry. Yeah. That was him. Couldn’t walk with me like a normal person. No. He had to zoom ahead. Always. Like a rocket. On those long legs of his. And I’d have to yell at him. To get his attention. To make him stop. And then. Watch him look surprised. I mean. He never realized I wasn’t there. Invisible. Evidently. That was me. Spent most of my marriage talking to the back of his head. Conversation. Not his thing. While I was talking. To him. Trying. He’d walk away. Said he thought I was finished. Oh, really? Too hyper. Him. To stand still. To listen. Even though he was chatty. Yeah. He was. Constantly. Mumbling. Mostly. Entire conversations. He’d have. With me. When I wasn’t in the room. Important things. Things I needed to know. He’d say to an empty room. I’d hear a mumbling noise. Somewhere in the house. And I’d have to yell at him. To get his attention. To make him stop. Remind him. You know. That I’m not in the same room. Invisible. In our marriage. Evidently. That was me. So here’s the thing. What does it take for a man to stop? To look you in the eye. Listen. Respond. With more than one word. Can men do that? A conversation. Two people. In the same room. Talking to each other. Back and forth. Give and take. Is that possible? For a man. Any man? Tell me. I’d like to know.” 

John Tustin

I THINK ABOUT DEATH ALL THE TIME

 

I think about death all the time:

Yours, mine, hers, his,

Ours.

When I am at work

Or at the supermarket

Or sitting and drinking

As I listen to country, folk and rock n roll

Music

I fill in the spaces of my thoughts

Imagining my death

And yours

And theirs.

The room grows dark

And my heart grows dark

And I think about my impending death

And fill with curiosity.

When I die

Will you honor me, will you cry for me?

Will you still deny me like Peter denied Jesus,

Like a child unwilling to repent?

As the years pass after I am gone, will you be washing dishes

And looking out the window,

Seeing the clouds passing over the tempestuous bay

Before a summer storm,

Think of me suddenly and shudder with loss?

Will you even remember me?

When I die and then you die

Will we meet in the valley

Under a crescent moon

And finally hold hands as we make a vow

Or will my energy just wallow aimlessly

With the ashes of my spent useless body?

 

I think of everyone and I think of their deaths:

Anne Sexton breathing in poison, rowing away from God.

Adams and Jefferson holding hands and dying together

And hundreds of miles apart.

The death of Christ

In agony on the cross.

The death of my mother

And the death of your mother.

The death of Gram Parsons and Gene Clark,

Drunk no more, singing no more.

The death of Augustine of Hippo

Who said “Wipe your tears and do not cry,

If you love me.

 

Death is nothing.”

 

Life is everything.

Guy Roads

A Congregation of Poets
for Dougie Padilla


On the way to your poetry reading
I saw a “congregation” of turkeys

They were praising Jesus 
by the side of the road

God only knows their denomination

In the Badlands I’ve seen prairie dogs
in their towns
praying on holy ground
facing east
with their tiny hands folded. Shalom!

and the marmots meditating
up on Beartooth Pass
all seemed like devout Buddhists

and every fish I ever caught
was a Baptist

Sometimes I wonder…

What is the doctrine of trees,
and are rocks really orthodox?

Where can I find 
a blessed congress of monkeys
or a herd of sacred cattle 
that aren’t branded?

Last October
I saw 30 deer at Vespers
in a hayfield —
their humble heads bowed
in silence

a choir of birds was singing 

aloft.

Daniel S. Irwin

The Reaper

Sooner or later, the Reaper’s
Coming for you.  No big deal.
Did you want to live forever
With all the disappointments
In life, all the jerks and a-holes
Making you miserable?
There’s some comfort in the
Thought of checking out and
Leaving all this behind.
Of course, breathing is good.
You can always appreciate some
Agreeable cuisine.  And there’s
That occasional piece of nookie
That still curls your toes.
Think about it.  The good times
Didn’t outweigh the bad.  But,
Damn, some of those good times
Were damn good.  Maybe,
I’m not ready to go just yet.
If Death shows up, I’ll just
Send him next door or to
Handi Mart for a latte.

Alan Catlin

Doug’s Life of Crime

started almost as soon
as he was able to know
what thieving was: taking
stuff that didn’t belong
to you and not getting
caught. We were maybe 13
when he said there was this
empty house up the road
where they had free stuff
and you could just go in
and take what you wanted.
When we got there, I saw
that meant climbing inside
through a broken window
to load stuff onto a stolen
shopping cart; stuff you
scammed from inside.
It was pretty obvious
this wasn’t stuff people
were giving away.
“I’m not going in there.”
I said. “Coward.”
“Damn straight, I am.”
The cops nailed Doug
wheeling a cart load of radios,
toasters, clocks and whatever
else was small enough to
fit in the wagon and looked
like something people could
use. He had to appear in court
and his old man went way
beyond ballistic. That’s how
Doug learned his old man knew
how to beat you silly and not
leave marks. It was skill he
learned in the army during the war.

Guy Roads

The January Effect

The years grow shorter
as the winters get longer

Yesterday I heard a rock star say
he might only have ten more summers

He didn’t sound confident

Who knows 
what life sees in us—
what it wants to be in us

or how to make time
a friend you love to hate
when spring is so far off

and the days keep running away
without ever saying goodbye.

Elise Neuman

Cattleman
I find myself fiddling with my poems
Picking and poking and prodding
Like some cattle rancher
Pushing the heifers to greener pastures.
I shove the words together
Hoping they feel like their inspiration
Shoved through a tiny gate, one word at a time

Perhaps a poem of poems is cliche
But it is one I don’t think I will try to move
Let it graze these lands to dust